Spotlight on women after carrying Olympic torch

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2016, 6:52 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO – At just over 5 feet tall, Victoria Lovelady was always a curious proponent for Brazil and golf’s return to the Olympics.

Carrying the hopes of an entire nation can be daunting, but Lovelady, who was born and still lives in Brazil, was thrust into the role of both ambassador and advocate in the months and weeks leading up to the Games.

One-by-one as the top male players opted out of the Olympics she found herself having to defend her home, having to explain that growing up in Rio mosquitos were a part of everyday life, not a reason to hide. That the construction delays and security concerns that dominated the headlines prior to the Games were not reasons to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If her advice fell on deaf ears, with four out of the top five male players in the world ranking choosing not to compete in the Olympics, her vindication came on Sunday, as crowds swarmed the golf course to watch Justin Rose dramatically win golf’s first gold medal in 112 years.

Just like that, the 29-year-old was transformed from apologist to apostle.

“Everybody is surprised and really impressed with the whole organization and how everything is running so smoothly,” Lovelady said on Tuesday. “In Brazil sometimes we’re known for being a little chaotic when it comes to big crowds, but I’ve been really impressed with the amount of organization that we are seeing.”

Whether Lovelady finds her way to the podium on Saturday somehow seemed secondary as she enjoyed Brazil’s Olympic moment after so many distractions threatened to undermine golf’s return to the Games.

In a telling twist to the modern news cycle, some remain fixated on who didn’t make the trip to Rio. On Monday, world No. 1 Lydia Ko was asked about the men who, for various reasons, skipped the Games.

“I can't speak for somebody else. Everybody has their own decisions,” the New Zealander said. “But I think I'm pretty sure that they would have watched the games, watched how the guys are playing, and a lot of them would have said, ‘Hey, that's such a great vibe, I wish I was there, too.’”

VIDEO: Lovelady: Olympics 'a huge step for Brazil'

Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos

Lost in that subtle take is the fact that the women enjoy no such distractions. Nine out of the top 10 in the Rolex World Ranking are in Rio, with Ha Na Jang the only exception and that’s because South Korea already has four players qualified (the maximum allowed) for the Olympics.

“For us, we’re all here,” Lovelady smiled.

By comparison, 21 men elected to skip the Olympics. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of timing and circumstances that the women are left to answer for those men who forfeited a possible trip to Rio.

Questions from media members still flummoxed by the decision of some top male players to not participate is one thing, yet many of the women, however unfairly, have been forced into the role of reluctant apologist to a broader audience.

“It was a little bit disappointing hearing from other sports, ‘Why didn’t they come?’ I don’t know, I don’t their reasons,” Paraguay’s Julieta Granada said. “We are here, we are embracing it. We’re doing the best we can. I think the guys will regret it.”

On this front, the women spoke with their actions. While world No. 1 Jason Day, No. 2 Dustin Johnson, No. 3 Jordan Spieth and No. 5 Rory McIlroy decided Olympic golf in 2016 wasn’t for them, from the outset the Games were important to the women; more important than possibly contracting the Zika virus or security concerns or scheduling issues.

Ko never wavered, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen – who was a part of golf’s original bid to be in the Games seven years ago – is in the field, and the top Americans were all gladly fitted for their Olympic tracksuits.

“This is big, this is a bigger stage than we see week in and week out,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “I heard some guys talk about whether men’s golf needs this, I get that, but we come from all over the world and when you talk to them about the Olympics it’s different.”

Whan and the LPGA made it easy for the top players to choose Rio, building a three-week break into the schedule before and during the women’s competition for those bound for the Games, and made sure the media-driven hyperbole was balanced by facts.

“Regardless of who said they were coming,” Whan said, “40 to 45 of them were going to be LPGA players, so I found it difficult to go play another event and find that they’ve fallen behind [on the money list]. I didn’t want to compete with the Olympics. I wanted to put the light on the Olympics.”

Whatever the reasons for the almost universal support of the women’s commitment to Olympic golf – be it an altruistic love of sport or a bigger picture understanding of what this could do to grow women’s golf – the field assembled in Rio speaks volumes.

On Tuesday as she made her final preparations for this week’s event, Lovelady surveyed the scene with no small amount of pride.

After months of defending her home and her game she would be forgiven for taking a moment of self-indulgent satisfaction. Asked if she felt any vindication after last week’s finish Lovelady didn’t hesitate: “For sure.”

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.