Olympic countdown: One year to Rio

By Rex HoggardAugust 5, 2015, 12:00 pm

For Antony Scanlon, a vision and years of work have started to become very real. Twelve months from Wednesday, the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympics will be held with 120 golfers joining the Parade of Nations for the first time in 112 years.

For Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation, the opening ceremony has been the ultimate goal since the International Olympic Committee announced golf’s return to the Games in October 2009. But it’s been the countdown’s impact on potential Olympic golfers that has created a buzz.

“They are excited. They realize this is a rare opportunity to be part of the national team and some of them will play a leadership role within that team,” Scanlon told GolfChannel.com. “It’s excitement and a little of the unknown, what does it mean to be part of an Olympics?”

Among players, who have, until recently, largely offered a lukewarm embrace of golf’s return, the opening ceremony is a very real and very familiar part of the Olympics.

“It's a great opportunity for us. It's going to be an exciting event, going to be a great opportunity to be a part of something huge, to be the first golfer in a long time, anyway, to win a gold medal,” said Justin Rose, who is currently qualified to represent Great Britain next summer.

“It's going to have a lot going for it. Who knows, in 100 years’ time that might be the most sought-after achievement in golf.”

With just one year before the start of the Olympics, some of those unknowns are starting to crystallize, including what the fields for the men’s and women’s competitions may look like.

Each field will consist of 60 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which are based on the Official World Golf Ranking with countries (like the United States) having as many as four competitors if those players are ranked inside the top 15 in the world. If they are not in the top 15, countries are limited to two competitors.

Currently that field includes the game’s bestfrom world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to Jordan Spieth and Jason Day for the men; Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson for the women.

“It’s got the strength of the field which is what the IOC wanted. We also have maximum participation and diversity among the different countries,” Scanlon said. “Right now, we have 35 different countries for the women and 36 for the men, so we are ticking the boxes in terms of diversity and strength of field.”

Scanlon said the current field is similar to the diversity and strength of field for the Olympic tennis competitions, which would be the closest comparison with golf.

Until recently, the biggest concern for Scanlon and other members of the IGF has been the Olympic golf course, which endured numerous construction delays and legal challenges but seems to be back on schedule.

“We have all the grass down. It’s a fantastic design and we are coming up with what could potentially be a masterpiece,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”

Officials plan to play a test event on the course early next year. Although Scanlon said the IGF hasn’t finalized what the event will be, he did say an announcement should be made soon and that the IGF hopes it will include a number of “top professionals.”

For many of the potential athletes, however, there has been more interest in the Olympic village than the Gil Hanse-designed golf course.

In fact, Scanlon said the first question potential Olympic golfers ask him almost always involves the village.

“That’s the biggest question and all we can do is point them to other athletes who have done that,” said Scanlon, who added that it’s up to each country’s Olympic federation to decide where its athletes stay during the Games.

Golf got a taste of what it may be like next summer in Rio when the game made its first appearance in the Pan Am Games last month in Toronto.

A group of four American amateurs (two male and two female players) competed in the Pan Am Games, with Andrea Lee taking the silver medal for the U.S. in the women’s individual competition.

“It was very much a dry run for the Olympics,” said Andy Levinson, the executive director of USA Golf. “Getting to the city, working through security, staying in the athlete village, it was all very similar to what it will be like in the Olympics.”

The biggest distinction between the Olympics and last month’s Pan Am Games has also been one of the central points of contention for some. Unlike the format for the Rio Games, there was a mixed-team competition that combined the lowest male and female scores each day, with the United States winning the silver medal.

Next summer in Rio the event will only be a traditional 72-hole stroke-play format, a decision that has been criticized in some circles. But as Scanlon explained, golf’s return to the Olympics required a conservative approach.

“That [individual stroke play] was what the players wanted and the Olympic Games are not an event where you experiment. [The IOC] wanted a tried and true competition,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon said the IGF will meet with the IOC following next year’s Olympics to review the competition, including the format and any potential changes for the 2020 Games.

But that meeting, which will be held in July 2017, will have far greater implications than a possible format change. IOC officials will approve the sports for the 2024 Games at that gathering, which essentially means golf’s only chance to remain an Olympic competition beyond 2020 is next summer in Rio.

“We’ve got one opportunity to assure we deliver a great competition,” Scanlon said.

The one-year countdown to the Rio opening ceremony means many things to many people. For potential players, it’s a chance to start dreaming of Olympic gold. For Scanlon and the IGF, it’s one final push to make sure they get it right.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”