Four years too late: London would have been ideal host to welcome back Olympic golf

By Clive AgranAugust 7, 2012, 7:24 pm

London-area local golf writer Clive Agran is smarting that the 2012 games aren't featuring golf. We asked him which area golf course would have made the best Olympic venue. 

LONDON, U.K. -- Right now there are 26 sports being contested at the London Olympics. Because the limit is set at 28 for the summer games, there’s room for two more. In Rio in 2016 the number will be back up to 28 with the reinstatement of golf and rugby, after a hiatus of 112 and 92 years respectively.

Sadly, the decision to bring back these two sports was made in August 2009 – too late for the current games. So Brazil, which presently has fewer than 30,000 golfers out of a population of nearly 200 million, just one serious tournament professional called Alex Rocha (who is ranked about 800th in the world) and only 117 courses, will have the honor of staging golf's triumphant return to the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Britain, with over four million golfers, five of the current top 11 in the world and 2000 courses, misses out. What a shame the International Olympic Committee didn’t demonstrate a little more foresight and bring golf back into the Olympic fold a little sooner.

In Brazil, Gil Hanse and LPGA hall of famer Amy Alcott are purpose-building an Olympic course while Britain would have been spoilt for choice. Supposing the IOC had moved a little quicker than a geriatric fourball and London had been given the chance to host Olympic golf, where would it have been played? Unlike in Brazil where they will be obliged to share a venue, the men’s and women’s tournaments could have been played simultaneously and separately.

Basically, the choice lies between three distinct category of courses: local, regional and national. The Stadium and principal Olympic venues are located in an urban area on the east side of London. There are several decent courses within a 15-mile radius of which the pick are Royal Blackheath, Royal Epping Forest and Royal Wimbledon. Although the first-named has the distinction of being the oldest club in England, none is really suitable to stage such a prestigious tournament.

Going slightly further afield, there are plenty of truly great ‘regional’ venues that are within, say, 50 miles or thereabouts. Included in these are the great Surrey heathland courses to the west such as Wentworth, Walton Heath, Sunningdale and St. George’s Hill. Alternatively, if you go east, there’s the inland London Club or, if you venture as far as the coast, there are three outstanding links’ courses well within range, Royal St George’s, Royal Cinque Ports and Princes. The last three have hosted the British Open, while the London Club and all the Surrey courses have experience of top quality tournaments.

Since some of the Olympic international soccer matches are being played in Scotland, there’s no reason why the golf could not have ventured north of the border as well. If it had, that would have brought all the famous, great, championship courses such as St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Turnberry and Royal Troon. into contention. Or the authorities might even have decided to return to that once famous Open venue, Prestwick.

After carefully examining all the candidates’ credentials, my (hypothetical) Olympic 2012 decision is as follows. The women’s event should have been played at glorious, but not too long Sunningdale. The men’s should have competed at Royal Cinque Ports at Deal, a club that would have welcomed the opportunity to reassert its undeniable Open credentials.

As for the winners? South Korea would have captured gold in the women’s event while the host nation would have won the men’s!

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Man bites off finger during golf course brawl

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:45 pm

PLYMOUTH, Mass. – A man has bitten off another man’s finger during a fight at a Massachusetts golf course.

WCVB-TV reports a 47-year-old man was arrested at the Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth Friday after he apparently got into a fight with another golfer and bit off a part of his thumb.

The station reports the victim’s thumb had been bitten off to his knuckle and he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The incident happened around sunset.

The attacker was arrested and charged with mayhem. A police dispatcher declined to comment Saturday and Chief Michael Botieri didn’t immediately return a call seeking more information.

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Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.