Will Olympic fields hold fans' interest?

By Rex HoggardJuly 9, 2014, 9:04 pm

The International Golf Federation will announce next week at Royal Liverpool the creation of a ranking that will track the fields for the 2016 Olympics and likely give an update on the progress of the golf course that will host the Games in two years.

While the rankings promise to be eye-opening for many, the word on Gil Hanse’s stalled project in Rio de Janeiro remains unchanged, but then growing grass is no one’s national pastime.

The rankings for the Olympic fields will dovetail with the Official World Golf Ranking for the men and Rolex Rankings for the women, drawing the top 60 players that would make up the fields for golf’s return to the Olympic stage.

The idea is to provide players, media and fans a weekly update of the Olympic field, but the rankings may leave some wondering if golf will be playing for gold in Rio or some watered-down World Golf Championship trophy.

By design, the selection process to earn a spot in Rio casts a wide net. A country can have up to four players qualify for the ’16 Games if they are ranked within the top 15 on July 11, 2016, the deadline for both fields. After that the fields will be filled out with the highest-ranked players with a maximum of two players per country.

While infinitely inclusive, the process promises to create fields that will cause a few double takes.

Using this week’s world golf ranking, Golf Channel crunched the numbers to create what the men’s Olympic field would look like. Among the normal cast of characters were some surprising additions to the Rio tee sheet.

Along with Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth – the U.S. is currently the only country to have four players in the top 15 – and Adam Scott and Jason Day, Australia’s lineup, would be Chan Shih-chang from Chinese Taipei at 266th in the world.

The current field would also include Antonio Lascuna and Juvic Pagunsan from the Philippines at Nos. 268 and 278, respectively; Brazil’s Adilson da Silva at 275 and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos at 285.

And Santos isn’t even the highest-ranked player in the current field. That honor belongs to Nicholas Fung from Malaysia, who is 290th in the world.

The field for the women’s event may go even deeper into the Rolex Rankings, with officials estimating they could dip to 400th in the world to fill the tee sheet in 2016.

Olympic qualifying is broad by design, and, honestly, if you want to see the game’s deepest field go toe-to-toe, tune in for the PGA Championship. But officials must know this will be a tough sell to the average golf fan who is accustomed to a steady diet of the world’s top players from Augusta National to Akron, Ohio.

An official with the IGF recently explained to your scribe that during the 2008 Beijing Games there were plenty of similarly high-ranked players competing against the world’s best in various sports.

The difference is in sports like swimming there are layers of qualifying that would keep a developing player like Fung from going head-to-head with the likes of Woods or Scott. In Rio, however, the Malaysian will dig a tee into the ground next to major champions and world-beaters.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept, just don’t expect it to pass the taste test for some fans.

In the Olympics the more inclusive an event can be, the greater impact it can have on the global growth of the game, and the selection process for the ’16 Games certainly delivers on that front.

There would be 35 countries represented based on the current ranking, but that competitive potpourri has also produced a field that includes 24 players who rank outside the top 100 in the world.

The opportunity for Fung and Santos to compete is sure to increase golf’s exposure in Malaysia and Brazil, but for fans in developed golf nations, like England, the United States and Australia, it’s simply going take some getting used to.

Similar to what officials experienced with tennis, there will be push-back from core fans who fail to see the romance of an Olympic tee sheet with a less-than-stellar strength of field.

The IGF doesn’t need to change the way it selects the fields for the ’16 Games, but it may want to start preaching the importance of inclusiveness. They have 758 days to make their case.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm