Competition for S. Korean Olympic team heating up

By Randall MellFebruary 2, 2016, 2:15 am

OCALA, Fla. – Winning the Coates Golf Championship this week will be more difficult than winning an Olympic gold medal.

A bunch of LPGA events this year will feature stronger, deeper fields than women will see in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

The Coates Golf Championship is host to 42 of the top 60 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. If the Olympics were played today, it would be host to only 26 of the top 60.

While the Olympics won’t feature the deepest field in women’s golf, the games will feature a deeply diverse field with so many different nations represented. It will feature a lot of women from emerging golf nations. The Olympics might be the best business plan golf has put forth yet to grow the game. That’s the bottom line business deal to golf’s return to the Olympics. It’s why Belgium’s Chloe Leurquin at No. 425 in the world, Chile’s Paz Echeverria at No. 430 and Brazil’s Victoria Lovelady at No. 501 would be playing if the Olympics were staged today.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is hoping the Olympics will prove a boon to interest in the women’s game.

“When I talk to people from other Olympic sports, they say, `You know Mike, you have what all of us want. You have the distribution network to take advantage of a big exposure moment,’” Whan said. “If your sport is kayaking or diving, and you get one big Olympic lift, you can't leverage it on a worldwide basis to the next weekend and the weekend after that and the weekend after that. You may have an exciting Olympic moment, but it is difficult to turn that moment into a regular following.

“In my case, if you like what you see in Rio, the week after we are at the Canadian Women's Open. We are on TVs in 175 countries. If more people than ever before stumble into women's golf at the Olympics, there’s a path to keep following us. A lot of other Olympic sports don’t have that path.”

Yes, the competition won’t be nearly as deep in Rio as it will be at the U.S. Women’s Open or Ricoh Women’s British Open, but does it really matter? Does it really matter in how Olympic gold will be valued?

An Olympic gold medal weighs slightly more than one pound (531 grams), but the real weight of it can’t be measured so finitely. For a lot of women around the world, a gold medal will be weighted with more nationalistic pride than any other golf trophy they could possibly win.

Ask South Korea’s Sei Young Kim.

What would she rather win this year? The U.S. Women’s Open or a gold medal?

“A gold medal,” Kim said. “It would be bigger than winning a major, because this will be first time for us, first Olympics for us in golf. That’s what makes it so very big. The Olympics is the reason I came over to play the LPGA. I’m trying very hard to make the Olympic team, and the world rankings points you get playing the LPGA are so important.”

A gold medal’s importance varies in golf according to the country a player calls home.

“Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I've fulfilled my career,” Australia’s Adam Scott, winner of the 2013 Masters, said last year. “It's nothing I've ever aspired to do, and I don't think I ever will. It's all about the four majors, and I think that's the way it should stay for golf.”

For South Korean women, the Olympic quest couldn’t be more intense. As the dominant force in women’s golf, interest in the projected makeup of the South Korean women’s Olympic team is high back in South Korea.

“A lot of Koreans are expecting a South Korean to win the gold medal,” said Na Yeon Choi, who is the defending champion at the Coates Golf Championship. “There is a lot of curiosity about who’s going to win it. So there’s going to be a lot of pressure to win it. There’s a lot of pressure now just to make the team.”

The Olympics will feature a field of 60 players in both the women’s and men’s competitions based on the world golf rankings. There’s a limit of two players per country who can qualify, unless players are among the top 15 in the world, then the limit is four players per country.

The fiercest battle being waged in women’s golf this year is over who’s going to make the South Korean team. There are eight South Koreans among the top 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, compared to just three Americans, so jockeying to make the Korean team is already intense.

“Back home, every Monday, the media lists who the Olympic qualifiers are in golf,” said Choi, who is the ninth highest ranked South Korean at No. 19 in the world. “Every week, they calculate who’s in and who’s out.”

Hyo Joo Kim’s victory Sunday at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic bumped her from No. 10 to No. 7 in the world rankings. More importantly, it moved her to the fourth highest ranked Korean woman in the world, vaulting her over In Gee Chun and Amy Yang. If the Olympics were staged today, the Korean team would be made up of Inbee Park (No. 2 in the world), Sei Young Kim (No. 5), So Yeon Ryu (No. 6) and Hyo Joo Kim.

While there will also be intense competition among American women to make the Olympic team, you don’t see Olympic women’s golf rankings in newspapers every Monday.

“A lot depends on how ingrained golf is in your country’s sports culture, if golf is part of your DNA,” said J.S. Kang of Sterling Sports Management, whose clients include South Koreans Seon Hwa Lee, Jeong Jang and Jennifer Song, who is also a U.S. citizen. “In South Korea, golf is still a relatively new game. The Olympics is just a bigger showcase. You grow up watching people stand on that podium, with the flag going up. That doesn’t happen in major championships in golf.

“If you win a gold medal in South Korea, the country rewards you financially. They don’t reward you if you win a major championship.”

The reward for winning a gold medal in Sochi two years ago was a lump sum payout of $62,500 for South Korean athletes, or monthly payment system that could ultimately net a player $250,000.

“When you are from a small country that doesn’t get a lot of athletic recognition, standing on the podium with a gold medal is the goal you grow up with and you dream about,” Kang said.

That’s why when South Koreans open the sports pages in their country Monday, they won’t be looking just to see how their countrywomen placed at the Coates Golf Championship. They’ll be looking to see how they’re placed in the newest Olympic women’s golf rankings.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.