Zanotti looks to grow Paraguayan golf with Olympic appearance

By Rex HoggardFebruary 3, 2016, 12:40 pm

One-by-one the world’s best players were asked the year’s most ubiquitous question: Would you rather win a major or a gold medal in 2016?

“Major championship,” said Rory McIlroy without a moment of hesitation. “I think a major championship is the pinnacle of our sport.”

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth was a little more careful with his response: “Both,” he smiled. “That's a question that really only would get me in trouble to actually answer.”

There is no right answer, not for the game’s biggest names, who have been conditioned since they first laid an over-lapping grip on a golf club that major championships stand above all else.

But as Fabrizio Zanotti slumps into a leather chair in the Abu Dhabi Golf Club clubhouse at a recent European Tour event a more appropriate question arrives like an epiphany.

For a player like Zanotti, a 32-year-old with an easy smile who grew up in Paraguay, what would have a greater impact on his country – a bronze medal in August in Rio or a third-place finish in April at Augusta National?

“If I’m going to finish third [at the Masters], I’d prefer a bronze medal. For Paraguay, it’s going to be much bigger than a third at the Masters,” Zanotti said. “For Paraguay, for sure. I think Paraguay only has one [Olympic] medal in the history, in soccer. It’s going to be huge.”

Although it will be the game’s stars who will be under the microscope when golf returns to the Olympics this year, it’s the likes of Zanotti who possess the potential to make the kind of impact organizers hoped for when golf returns to the Games.

Video: Zanotti wins 2014 BMW International Open in playoff

At 119th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Zanotti is virtually unknown to U.S. golf fans and after eight years on the European Tour he doesn’t have much traction on the Continent either. But in Paraguay, where golf is dwarfed by soccer, he has the chance to be a trailblazer.

Currently, Paraguay has just three athletes qualified to play in this summer’s Games, and two of those currently bound for Brazil are golfers – Zanotti and LPGA veteran Julieta Granada.

It’s the type of exclusive club that Zanotti says has thrust golf into a rare spotlight in Paraguay, where, like many South American countries, golf is the definition of a niche sport.

“I tell you how many golf courses we have,” Zanotti smiled. “We have six golf course’s in all the country [of 6.8 million people].”

One of those bastions of the ancient game is Yath y Golf Club Paraguayo in Asuncion where Zanotti grew up playing the game.

“My father was a member. He played golf and I was there always with him since I was a little kid. Watching him competing with his friends and I never stop playing,” said Zanotti, who started playing when he was 6 years old.

Zanotti stopped playing soccer to focus on golf and elected to skip a potential college career in the United States to turn pro, a move that paid off in 2007 when he won the Abierto Mexicano Corona, an event co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour that paved the way for his journey to Europe.

For Zanotti progress has always come in measured steps and it would be another seven years before his next breakthrough, winning the 2014 BMW International Open in a playoff that included the likes of Henrik Stenson.

“It was very tough for me at the beginning to play in Europe with the weather,” said Zanotti, who finished 26th last season on the European Tour in earnings. “Playing in the wind and the rain and the cold, it was pretty hard. But after two years I get used to it and start liking to play in that weather.”

Zanotti has modeled his career after Carlos Franco, Paraguay’s most famous golfer who won four times on the PGA Tour and mentored Zanotti during the 2007 World Cup when the two were teamed together.

“He was great with me,” Zanotti said.

Franco, who didn’t win on the PGA Tour until he was 34 years old and played his best golf late into his 40s, has also provided Zanotti with an example of perseverance.

Zanotti remembers, for example, the year Franco finished tied for seventh at the Masters in 2000. Growing up in Paraguay, Zanotti’s only exposure to professional golf was during the majors. It’s what drove him to golf when all of his friends gravitated to soccer.

“I always liked to watch the Masters on TV. I remember the time Greg Norman and Nick Faldo played against each other [1996], I watched them and imagined me there also,” Zanotti said.

But the Olympics transcend the traditional hierarchy of Grand Slam success. For a developing golf country like Paraguay, this year’s Games represent a chance to bring golf to the masses beyond the occasional cameo during the season’s majors.

Zanotti – who, because of how players will be selected to play this year’s Games, is virtually assured a spot in the Olympic field – said he plans to make the most of the experience, including showing up early for the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations.

“It’s going to be a great experience. It’s a new experience, I want to live it,” said Zanotti, who considering the limited Olympic contingent from Paraguay likes his chances to be able to carry his nation’s flag in that Parade of Nations. “There is not going to be a big group of people there, no more than eight or nine.”

From small things, however, Zanotti is confident big things can happen for golf.

“Everybody in Paraguay is looking forward to us playing,” he said. “People can’t believe it, we have three sports qualified and two are golfers. Golf in Paraguay gives people a lot of satisfaction.”

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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.