Three Olympians continue momentum at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 18, 2016, 9:11 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Perhaps rest is overrated.

The torrid 2016 schedule has brought with it an increased focus on how players craft their own list of events – when to recharge the batteries, and when to put the pedal down for weeks on end.

With the playoffs and Ryder Cup still to go, there’s still no end in sight to one of golf’s longest summers. But the leaderboard at the Wyndham Championship shows that sometimes the spark from a unique experience can outweigh any globetrotting fatigue.

Sixty men participated last week in golf’s return to the Olympics, and six of them opted to make the nearly 5,000-mile journey from Rio to Greensboro. In the wake of an emotional, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a letdown would certainly be understandable as players return to the daily grind of the PGA Tour.

Instead, three of the six have rolled right from Brazil onto the first page of the early leaderboard at Sedgefield Country Club.

Consider it Riomentum.


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The trio is led by Rafael Cabrera Bello, who last week represented Spain alongside Sergio Garcia. Cabrera Bello left Rio Monday night for Miami, arriving on-site at this week’s venue Tuesday morning. Having played here only once before, he grabbed a share of the lead alongside Kevin Na with a 7-under 63 in the opening round.

“Last week was a big adrenaline week. It was the first time I was really playing, not playing for myself, just playing for my country,” he said. “I’ve had a couple days’ rest and today was continuation of the good feelings of last week.”

As a special temporary member on the PGA Tour, Cabrera Bello would only qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a win this week. But he sought a sponsor invite months ago from tournament director Mark Brazil with an eye on a different prize: securing a spot on his first European Ryder Cup team.

Cabrera Bello is currently sixth on the World Points list, with the top nine players on Aug. 28 earning automatic berths. Rather than rest on his laurels, he decided to add an Olympic follow-up and is still considering playing on the European Tour next week at the Made in Denmark.

“The decision was because I’ve been all year pretty much inside the Ryder Cup team, European team. So I wanted to keep fighting for it,” he said. “There was a chance of me not making it through the (European Tour) money list but making it through the world ranking points list. That’s where I wanted to focus.”

A hectic schedule is nothing new for Danny Lee, who was the Tour’s ironman while making 36 starts last season. The 26-year-old was running on fumes this summer after a stretch that included three majors and a WGC event in a five-start stretch from the U.S. Open to the PGA Championship, and he viewed the Olympics as a welcome break from the daily grind.

“Going to Rio and stuff like that, it was a big refresh for me,” Lee said. “I was trying to do my best to get a medal, but it was more for the experience. Kind of went over there as like a half-holiday, and it was great.”

Lee got a short rest at home in Texas before flying to Sedgefield, where he promptly opened with a 5-under 65. That left him two shots off the lead, but one clear of a group that included fellow Olympian Patrick Reed.

For Reed, there’s plenty of incentive this week. He returns to the site of his first Tour win precariously positioned on the Ryder Cup bubble, likely needing to play well over the next two events to secure his spot at Hazeltine.

It also marks the halfway point of an especially busy stretch for Reed, who will play seven straight weeks from the PGA through the BMW Championship and 12 out of 13 weeks dating back to the U.S. Open.

But don’t expect to hear any complaints from Reed, who just four years ago was trying to break onto the Tour one Monday qualifier at a time.

“I’m always that kind of grinder. I love to compete, love to play,” Reed said. “Anytime you can get me in the trenches to go play some golf, I’m down for it. That’s why it was pretty easy for me to come back and just kind of keep on going.”

All three players agreed that the north-south travel logistics made the return from Rio a bit easier to handle, a trip that spanned only one time zone instead of the five or six that accompany a trip to Europe.

And while three rounds still remain, it’s clearly in the early going that the Olympic spirit which fueled golfers last week – and which is still driving a field of 60 women down in Brazil – can also produce some positive lingering effects for those that made the journey.

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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.

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Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 5:29 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.

Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.

Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.


Full-field scores from the BMW International Open


Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.

Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.

Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.