Hero World Challenge: What we learned

By Tyler Olson

Hero Tiger 2Tiger Woods made his much-anticipated return last weekend at his own tournament, The Hero World Challenge, and didn’t actually do too bad.  He completed all four rounds- not a small accomplishment given his past- and although he finished towards the bottom of the eighteen-man field  there were more than a few good signs in there.

Stretches of good golf:

            Early Thursday afternoon could only be described as the apocalypse for golf Twitter.   If Tiger had everyone’s curiosity when he birdied the third and had yet to make a major mistake through the fifth hole, he certainly grabbed everyone’s attention after stringing together birdies on six, seven, and eight to be tie for the lead at -4.  The Tiger of old was back and everyone was losing their minds.  Memes and gifs left and right. “Eighteen majors, here we come!” was the prevailing wisdom.

Woods then shot a cool +5 on the next ten holes to turn in a marginal 73.

Despite the mishap on Thursday’s back nine, Woods rallied with a bogey-free 65 on Friday and a 32 on the front on Saturday that included five birdies.  After playing well for that stint, Woods was two over on Saturday’s back nine and made a mess of the course on Sunday for a 76 that landed him in fifteenth place.

While many obviously hoped 2001 Tiger would magically appear on their television screens and vanquish the field full of top-ranked foes, expecting that after a sixteen-month layoff from pro golf is simply unreasonable. This tournament, with neither a cut line nor a full field, was merely a tune-up for Woods as he is focuses on the coming PGA Tour season and the majors, starting with the Masters in April.

Tiger played what amounts to thirty-six holes of great golf with a little bit of rust thrown in-between.  Woods made it very clear that he was happy with his performance and as he gets more reps, that rust should shake off with no problem.

Tiger_hero 1   “I need to play more tournaments,” said the fourteen-time major champion. “Zero in 15 months is not a lot, so this is one. I thought I made some good, positive things happen this week. Made a lot of birdies, also made a lot of mistakes. That’s something I know I can clean up.”

Other players also had total faith that Woods would back contending for trophies soon enough.

“Give him three or four tournaments, maybe six tournaments, maybe around the Masters. It’s easy to overanalyze a very limited amount of golf,” said Henrik Stenson, who finished second, just two strokes back of winner, Hideki Matsuyama.

Tiger’s Health

He looked good.  Tiger was ripping drivers at full force with recoil all week; not exactly something someone who is worried about back health is prone to do. Woods even believed he was healthy enough to come back and play back before he dropped out of the Safeway Open, but that his game was not in the place that he wanted it to be before he came back to playing on the PGA Tour. Given those pieces of evidence, it’s clear that Tiger’s long wait before coming back (pun intended) paid off. His health is a moot point until any evidence on the course or coming from Tiger himself suggests otherwise.

Hideki

Hideki Hidden in all the Tiger-mania this weekend was the fact that Hideki Matsuyama absolutely had his way with the course at Albany. After Saturday, it looked like he had a chance to win this tournament, with its hand-selected field of the top golfers in the world, by double digits. His 73 on Sunday and a 68 by British Open champion, Henrik Stenson, made for just a two-stroke margin of victory. Still nothing to sneeze at.

Now the victor in four of his last five starts, if you’re planning on placing Masters bets early, look no further than Matsuyama.

Predictions

                Tiger finished fifteenth out of eighteen this week, which was in line with our Twitter followers’ votes on our prediction poll. Out of the four options: Win, top half of the field, low half of the field, and injury WD/ 10+ over par, the plurality selected bottom half. So, good job there, guys.

I was incorrect with my prediction; in last week’s article I had Tiger finishing in the top nine. I simply underestimated the rust he would have. While the bouts of great golf that he put together weren’t surprising, I positively did not expect that Tiger freaking Woods would double-bogey the final hole on both Saturday and Sunday. But alas, that happened.

Where will we see Tiger next?

                Woods wants some live tournament experience so his game is on point come Masters time, so it’s time to speculate where we will see Big Cat play his next tune up event. The early-season events in California, especially in Torrey Pines would be a good bet, although his agent has alluded that he may make the trip across the Atlantic to play in the European Tour events in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, where Rory McIlroy usually gets his golf season underway.

Fingers crossed Woods doesn’t get injured before then.

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So Tiger Woods is Coming Back this Week: What to Expect

By Tyler Olson

                Tiger Woods is going to play in a competitive golf tournament on Thursday for the first time in 470 days.  470 days ago, there were still seventeen people running in the Republican presidential primary.   The Chicago Cubs were still cursed. “Closer” by the Chainsmokers didn’t exist to be obsessed over by every girl in her teens and early twenties. The Rams were still in St. Louis.  Basically, it’s been a very long time since Tiger Woods has played golf.   So, what should we expect this weekend when he faces some of the best golfers in the world in his own tournament?

Health:

tiger painTiger Woods has a long and storied history of getting hurt.  He’s come back from various surgeries and ailments way too soon in the past, only to re-aggravate those injuries.  Don’t expect that this time.  Woods seems to have learned his lesson and is not pushing his aging body any further than it can go.  Just remember: People were calling for him to potentially come back for the Masters or US Open during this previous season, yet he resisted the temptation and stayed home.  Then, when he was scheduled to play in the Safeway Open this October, he pulled out at the last second, saying he thought he, “…wasn’t ready to compete against the best golfers in the world.”  Assuming he was being honest in this statement, Woods was sufficiently healthy to compete.   He just didn’t believe his game was sharp enough to be playing on the PGA Tour.   So, theoretically, he’s been in solid physical shape for some time now.   Of course, there’s always the chance his glutes stop firing on the back nine on Friday, but the smart money right now is that Woods will make it through all four rounds without problem.

Skill:

tiger skills Tiger Woods told the USA Today that he can hit “…all the shots now, on call.”   When Tiger Woods says that he can hit “all the shots” that means something.  That means he is confident that no matter what the situation, he has a shot that can fit the circumstances, like the Tiger of yesteryear. There are lots of players on Tour who can’t even hit “all the shots, on call.”  Martin Kaymer is a perfect example of this. Back in 2011, when he was the top ranked player in the world, he physically could not hit a draw.

Videos of Woods’ swing surfaced online over the past few days, and it looks pretty good, even according to his former coach, Hank Haney, who said he has a great shot at a win or a top five finish.  Woods should be just fine in his ball striking, and one can only assume he’s been working just as hard on his short game.

Mental Game:

tiger mental   It almost feels silly to question Tiger Woods’ mental game.  He’s one of the most clutch golfers in history and has always had an air of intimidation about him.  But we have justification to.  First off, Woods had a nasty case of the chipping yips really not too long ago, and it’s possible that the nerves of not playing for so long could get to Woods. Additionally, he’s no longer feared by other players.  In his peak, anyone, from Serio Garcia to Phil Mickelson to the newest tour rookie would understand they’d be in for a tough fight when playing against Woods.  Now, as the 898th ranked player in the world, he won’t project the same authority, especially with the elite field Woods assembled for the Hero World Challenge.  Woods is paired with Patrick Reed for rounds one and two.  Reed wouldn’t be intimidated if he were playing one on one against LeBron James, so he won’t care that he’s playing with a guy who was a lowly Ryder Cup vice-captain when he was out there winning matches.

Prediction:

Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods.  He seems to have learned from the mistakes of the past and let his body heal properly from his previous injuries.  Without that worry hanging over him, expect at the very least a respectable performance from him this week.  It was reported that Woods shot a 63 at Seminole the other day, and if that is true, there’s no reason to expect him to come out and lay an egg.  But it is his first time out, so let’s moderate our expectations something short of a win.  Woods will probably not be in real contention at any time this week, and will finish outside of the top five, but he should be able to keep it in the top half of the eighteen-man field.  Look for someone like Dustin Johnson or Jason Day to run away with it.

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If Golfers Ran the World

By Tyler Olson

                Donald Trump is the next President of the United States of America. But a president isn’t a supreme dictator, he has dozens if not hundreds of people around him who help him do his job. The president has a cabinet, the military, his aides, interns, and more all surrounding him helping to keep the United States up and running. Being that President-Elect Trump is a golf enthusiast himself, maybe he’ll pick some of our favorite golfers to hold those positions. Here’s a list of suggestions that would help Trump on his road to making America great again.

Davis Love III- Vice President:

davis-love-ryder-cup-1280x850Yes he’s already picked Mike Pence, but DL3 is a natural leader. He took the 2014 disaster of a Ryder Cup and turned it around for a resounding victory just two years later. Donald is getting up there in age and the presidency is a stressful job. If an unfortunate event takes the life of our sitting president, Americans would feel safe knowing that Davis Love is waiting there in the wings.

Phil Mickelson- Speaker of the House:

A president can’t make any laws that aren’t passed by Congress first. Because of that, the president needs someone who can either woo or strong-arm 435 congressmen and women into voting for pieces of legislation. Phil is a perfect balance of the both. His friendly nature and vibrant smile make him a fan favorite and someone that other golfers like to play with during practice rounds. At the same time, Phil’s unfiltered opinions at the expense of others can also lead to real change. Case in point, his rant after the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. If the president needs something done, Phil Mickelson will be the man to do it.

Patrick Reed- Secretary of Defense:

patrick-reed-shushP Reed is a stereotypical war hawk. He plays mediocre on tour all season but when he gets the opportunity to vanquish his foreign foes in international competition- whether it be the Olympics, the Presidents’ Cup, or the Ryder Cup- he shines. When all the odds are against him, when European fans are shouting him down, he’ll sink that putt to buoy the USA’s hopes in a match and shush the crowd. If America gets in a real war, there would be no man better to command our military to a resounding victory.

Jordan Spieth- Secretary of State:

In international match play, Spieth is Reed’s unassuming right hand man. He’s humble, quiet, and respectful, but he gets the job done. As Secretary of State Spieth would use friendly yet strong diplomacy to keep America’s alliances strong while still making sure our enemies know who’s boss. His skill could advance America’s interests without there being a need for war.

JB Holmes and Bubba Watson- Generals:

bubba ball flight

 

 

 

 

 

These guys can launch missiles on the course, so why not off it. If one of our enemies decides to start a war, nobody will be better to send devastating ICBMs right at their targets. JB Holmes was the 2016 leader in driving distance on the PGA Tour while Bubba Watson was fourth. Why is Bubba better for this job than Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau, who came in second and third? He has just the right amount of crazy in his game to keep America’s enemies on their toes.

Zach Johnson- Chief of Staff:

Zach Johnson isn’t the most powerful driver of the golf ball, but he doesn’t need to be. His iron, wedge, and short games are so precise that he manages to score low anyways. The president’s chief of staff needs that same type of exacting attention to detail. He lays out the minute by minute schedule for the leader of the free world and oversees all the other staffers who do jobs that the White House needs to function properly. Without the chief of staff, everything in the executive branch would fall into chaos. Zach Johnson is the only man who can be trusted with such an important job.

Supreme Court Justice- Dustin Johnson

Donald Trump has a vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, and he may well get to appoint several other justices in his term. To pick a competent person to fill that vacancy, he needs to find someone who can truly understand the complexities of the law. Someone who has experience with its application. Someone like Dustin Johnson. Why? Well, no golfer has had as many dust ups with quirks within the Rules of Golf and the PGA Tour than DJ has in recent years. The 2010 PGA Championship, the 2016 US Open, just a couple holes later at the 2016 US Open, that time he was suspended but not suspended but maybe suspended, and that time he made his brother jump into a lake to save him two strokes all prove that he has the legal experience to apply the American constitution and legal code with a steady and seasoned hand.

Secret Service- Tiger Woods:

cst 118733 Ryder CupThe resemblance here in uncanny. The glasses. The earpiece. The intimidating look on his face. Nobody is messing with the president when Agent Woods is in the room.

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Winter Reading for Golfers

By Tyler Olson

As winter rolls around and many of us are snowed in for three months- or at the very least locked in a classroom learning how to factor trinomials and identify gerunds- getting on the course every day to keep our golf game sharp becomes difficult. It’s a tragic waste of time. Seriously, what purpose does memorizing the periodic table of elements serve for my golf game? If it doesn’t involve golf, it doesn’t matter. Luckily, there’s a plethora of golf-related learning to be had out there. So whether you’re curling up in front of a fire while the fluffy stuff buries your house or zoning out while your teacher drones on about things clearly not relevant to your life (AKA golf), pick one of these pieces of reading and learn yourself something important.

Golf not perfect rotellaGolf is Not a Game of Perfect, Dr. Bob Rotella

Dr. Bob Rotella a top sports psychologist who consults athletes from PGA Tour golfers to college basketball players and everything in between.  He has volumes upon volumes of books out, all of which are great, but this one is good starting point for someone just learning about mental game on a deeper scale than a two-minute segment from Michael Breed on the Golf Channel.

 

 

Golfs Sacred JourneyGolf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, Dr. David L. Cook

Golf’s Sacred Journey is a novel following the trials and tribulations of an aspiring pro golfer who buckles under pressure right when he’s on the verge of realizing his dreams. The protagonist, Luke, meets an unlikely mentor in a tiny town in the middle of the Texas who not only fixes his golf game, but uses the lessons of the sport to change his perspective on life.

 

 

LifeWellPlayedHCA Life Well Played, Arnold Palmer

Arnie is no longer with us, but being the classy guy he was, he left us with one last gift. A Life Well Played was originally scheduled to release on October 24, but the date got moved up after his death. This memoir is a collection of stories and lessons and The King collected over his historic life. Available in hardcover for less than $20 on Amazon, every golfer who cares about preserving the history of the game and moving it to the future should be buying this book. A Life Well Played will be one of those timeless books you can keep on your coffee table forever and pass on to your children and grandchildren.

 

golf etiquetteGolf Etiquette, The Confident Golfer

Golf etiquette is important. It’s what separates our game from most others. We respect our competitors and are honorable enough to keep our own score. Some people seem to be unable to do that. Get this book for them as the greatest passive aggressive Christmas gift ever.

 

Rules of GolfThe Rules of Golf, USGA and R&A

While their absurd intricacy has been much maligned over the past year, from the Dustin Johnson incident where his ball may or may not have kinda slightly gyrated on the sixth green of the US Open to Jordan Spieth’s ambiguous non-penalty where some don’t think he took full relief from a puddle at the PGA Championship, The Rules of Golf are still the supreme governing body that we play our game by. You should know them as best as you can. There’s a handy rules of golf smartphone app too. It costs about $3 and can settle any on course rules dispute you may have.

PGWodehouseOrdeal By Golf, PG Wodehouse

A little early 20th century literature never hurt anybody. Ordeal by Golf is one of a plethora of golf related short stories from, in my opinion, one to the most underrated authors of his era in PG Wodehouse. He’s just a quality writer. In Ordeal by Golf, Wodehouse shows the importance of having a strong mental game with a surprising parable about an employer using a round of golf to decide between two possible hires. Just read it, you won’t regret it. Here’s the link to it>>> http://fullreads.com/literature/ordeal-by-golf/

We all want to get better at golf. While grinding on the range and the practice green is of course the most effective way to do that, when that’s not possible, don’t get complacent, groom your golf brain instead.

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This was Phil Mickelson’s Ryder Cup

By Tyler Olson

                Nobody had as much to do with the United States winning the 2016 Ryder Cup as Phil Mickelson. Nobody. With Arnold Palmer recently passed and Tiger carrying a walkie talkie down the fairways instead of a putter, there was something of a power void under the stars and stripes. If only for this weekend, that was filled by Phil Mickelson with his 3-1 record and inspired match against European team mainstay Sergio Garcia on Sunday. But to truly understand Phil’s significance to this Ryder Cup, we first have to go back to the previous one.

mickelson_watsonAfter a 16 ½ to 11 ½ embarrassment in Gleneagles, the United States team was demoralized. Phil more so than any others, as 2014 was the eighth Ryder Cup he was on the losing end of. In the press conference afterword, he tore into Tom Watson, the 2014 captain of the American squad, and called for wholesale changes in the US Ryder Cup system. The tone of his comments seemed cruel to many, especially as Watson was seated a mere few feet away, but they were effective.

The result was the PGA of America Ryder Cup task force, which was made up of a group of former captains, players, and PGA of America representatives. That task force overhauled the points system, the captains picks, and the level of player involvement, which was previously nil. Phil was behind the selection of Davis Love III as the captain and remained active in bonding the team as the Cup drew near. He fully invested himself in helping America win the 2016 Ryder Cup.

2016 wasn’t just a redemption mission for the 2014 loss, either. It was redemption for the Americans losing six of the previous seven Ryder Cups and it was redemption for Phil’s Ryder Cup legacy.  Despite his historic lack of success- Jim Furyk is the only American to ever lose as many Ryder Cup matches as Mickelson- Phil gave himself a chance to be remembered as the man who saved the Americans.

2016 Ryder Cup - Singles Matches  It started on Friday morning foursomes where Phil and Rickie Fowler faced off against the European pairing of Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan. The teams went toe to toe all morning in a match that included just seven halved holes. In the end, Phil and Rickie took the match 1 up to punctuate the four match sweep for the Americans in the first session.

The momentum from that sweep never ceased for the American side until Sunday morning when at one point the Europeans had leads in six matches and the Americans in just one. It seemed as if there was a historic comeback in the works. Mickelson had other ideas. He made ten birdies in a slugfest against Sergio Garcia that, along with the Reed v McIlroy match, kept the American crowd in it. Riding that wave of excitement, the Americans took seven of the twelve Sunday singles matches and repossessed the Ryder Cup.

mickelson_spieth Phil was vindicated in a way that only such a resounding victory could have. In the words of Johnny Miller, Mickelson was, “The power behind [Davis Love’s] throne,” and if the United States lost he would have not had much to salvage in the way of his reputation. Instead he’s not only known as the power behind this win but as the person who set the American team up for many more victories down the road.

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Five Reasons Why Every Golf Fan Should be Watching The Tour Championship at East Lake from Start to Finish

By Tyler Olson

East lake

Golf is hard to watch all the time. Tournaments happen almost every single weekend, the rounds start bright and early and don’t end until mid-afternoon- when most of us are at work/school on Thursday and Friday- and now that it’s fall the Saturday round conflicts with college football Saturday and the final round conflicts with NFL Sunday. That being said, this is our sport’s championship and every true golf fan should put watching the golf at East Lake this weekend above all other priorities.

1.) It’s the Championship - This one goes without saying. If you’re a football fan, you watch the entire Super Bowl. If you’re a baseball fan, you don’t miss game seven of the World Series. So as a golf fan, you should be watching our own Championship.

2.) Golf is fun - School is boring. Golf isn’t. While you can’t be skipping classes every single day, cutting just this once to spend some quality time at your local sports bar admiring the craft of the best golfers in the world won’t hurt.

3.) It’s still early in the football season - The chances are that your college football team doesn’t have a make or break game in week four, likewise for your NFL team in week three. I, as a Penn Stater, am not particularly looking forward to watching Michigan pulverize my Nittany Lions. John Harbaugh is going to make our defense look like a middle school gym class flag football team comprised of only the kids who were picked last. We have plenty more winnable games to get bowl eligible, so I can skip this one. Rory McIlroy vs Jason Day is a far more evenly-matched competition.

4.) Learning from the best - For anybody looking to improve their game, there is no better tournament out there to watch. The Tour Championship takes the thirty best golfers from the past season and puts them in one place. The only other time you’ll see a field this strong is at the WGC events. If you even take one thing the pros do and integrate it into your own game- from pre shot routine to setup to tempo to club twirl technique- you’ll be a better player for it.

5.) Withdrawals - The first few months of the wraparound season are generally a snooze as the best players in the world take a temporary hiatus to extend their offseason. Yeah, there’s Tiger’s Hero World Challenge and some other events that showcase winners from the previous season, but there’s no real significant golf to be played between the Tour Championship and the Masters in April.

*Note: this is only regarding stroke play events. Not the Ryder Cup next week, which will be awesome. It’s just not the same as watching traditional stroke play golf.

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American Ryder Cup Captain’s Picks Preview

By Tyler Olson

Ryder-Cup-2016  This past week, while Phil and the rest of the American Ryder Cup team were goofing off in Gillette Stadium, the European squad finalized their roster with the captains pick additions of Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, and Thomas Pieters. It’s now Davis Love’s turn to do the same. He will announce his first three picks on September 12th then the final one on the 26th. So who should he choose? With the depth on the tour nowadays, there’s no shortage of options, but alas, there are only twelve spots on the team.

The first name that comes to mind is Rickie Fowler who played his way out of the top-8 qualifier spots last Sunday at the Barclays. He’s had a solid season, as evidenced by the fact that he was in the mix to begin with, so if he plays well in the lead up to September 12th, DL3 may well feel obliged to include Fowler. Another factor that could play into the decision is that Fowler was on the American Olympic delegation to Rio so he’s used to repping the red, white, and blue.

davis loveSpeaking of American Olympians, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, and Jim Furyk are also in the top-15 of the Ryder Cup standings and each can make a case that they should represent the States at Hazeltine. Furyk especially has been especially hot in recent weeks, so much so that Love acknowledged that he is, “…screwing up the top twelve right now.” One fact that may end up keeping Mr. 58 off of the team is his abysmal record in Ryder Cup matches: 10-20-4. The Americans’ quest to take back the cup after the disaster in 2014 has been focused on changing up their approach, and sticking with players who don’t have a record of success may not be the way to go.

A big part of winning in the match-play format at the Ryder Cup is having the mental confidence to face up against an opponent every single hole. This should lead Love to look for somebody with a hot hand in recent tournaments, and Justin Thomas may be the man for the job. He’s had an unimpressive year in 2016, but his recent T3 at the Travelers and T10 at the Barclays make a solid case for him. Although he was cut at the Deutsche Bank, if he can win or at least contend for a win at the BMW it could be hard to leave him off the team.

JB Holmes is ranked inside the top 12 in the points standings, but he has been the antithesis of a hot hand lately. He’s been cut in four of his past seven tournaments and as of this writing is a pedestrian T33 at the Deutsche Bank. Just outside of the top 12 is Scott Piercy, who proved this year that he can play on golf’s biggest stages with back to back runner up finishes at the US Open and the Bridgestone Invitational. However, much like Holmes, he followed those up with back to back missed cuts and has failed to crack the top 20 in a tournament since. That string of mediocre play could keep the 37-year old late bloomer off the Ryder Cup team for another two years.

If Davis Love is really looking to throw a monkey wrench into the peoples’ caption’s pick predictions he could go with Smylie Kauffman. At just 25 years old, he’s already become a crowd favorite (and we know how important crowds are at the Ryder Cup) and is contending for the win at the Deutsche Bank this week; tied for third as of this writing. Good play in the final round and a strong tournament at the BMW could lead to a come-from-behind spot in Hazeltine for Kauffman a la Phil 2014. Jason Dufner could be another crowd favorite pick that Love has to consider. He’s higher up in the standings, ranked 18, and the folk hero status he achieved after his 2013 PGA Championship and the Dufnering fiasco that year may be just the shot in the arm the home team needs to bring the Ryder Cup back to this side of the Atlantic. Also in a decent spot in the standings is Ryder Cup virgin Bill Haas, who sits at 14. Like Furyk, however, his match play record of 9-13-3 from his time at the Presidents’ Cup and the WGC Match Play doesn’t speak well for him.

tiger davis

All in all, Davis Love III does not have a very enviable task. However, he does have lots of help from assistant captain, Tiger Woods. While the odd and confusing spectacle of Tiger Woods zipping around the course in a golf cart may steal the show, according to Love, he will serve at the chief strategist and hopefully take some of the pressure off of the captain. It’s been widely reported that for some time now he’s been texting DL3 his takes on possible captain’s picks (let’s pause for a moment to imagine how cool it must be to have your phone buzz and for the name “Tiger Woods” to show up on your lock screen. Okay, that’s enough) and his prolific experience for the US team should also serve well in selecting pairings come time to play the actual matches.

Who do you think should be the captain’s picks for the American side? Think we missed anybody who should be considered for the team? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter (@mygogi), Facebook (Game of Golf Institute), Instagram (my_gogi), or Snapchat (golf_swagger)!

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Women’s Golf Olympic Return

By: Melynda Post

inbeeparkl

Finally, the time we were anxiously waiting for arrived a little over a week ago, when we got to watch the world’s best female golfers compete in the Olympics. It was a long time coming, and the women did not disappoint. Everyone around the world was able to witness Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, and Shanshan Feng win Olympic medals for their respective countries. These three women made history and will be remembered for earning these medals during Golf’s long awaited Olympic return.

inbeeparkl 2As the summer approached this year, concerns and hesitations from golfers, fans, and media were becoming more and more evident. Zika was the biggest culprit. Golf was the sport that had the most athletes skip the Games. But, not one of the top-ranked females decided to skip due to Zika.

Another concern that had a lot of golfers talking publically was the format. Multiple athletes said they were expecting it to be a team format, but unfortunately, it was not.  When thinking about Golf’s return to the Olympics, some people immediately pictured a team format, like the Ryder and Solheim Cups. Instead, it was an individual 72-hole stroke play format for the three medals.

These two negative points aside, another big aspect was the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Golf Course. This course was specifically built for the Games and features 18 beautiful holes. Not only was it landscaped as part of an environmental recovery project (Rio2016), but following the Games, it will also be the first public golf course in Brazil. Now anyone can play where the world’s best golfers made their Olympic debut. I cannot even imagine walking up to the green on the 18th hole, where Inbee Park secured her Gold Medal after a big lead. Suffice to say, not many of us were alive in 1904, so to be able to play at a course where some of our favorite golf professionals won Olympic Medals is a huge deal.

Rio Olympics Golf WomenWinning a Major is arguably the highest achievement you can earn in the game of Golf.  However, during this historic time of Golf’s Olympic return, the three women winning the gold, silver, and bronze medals will be remembered forever. They are the first women since 1904 to wear Olympic Medals around their necks. Also, in 1904, the women only competed in a 9-hole championship. This is even more of a reason why every single woman that competed this year should be proud of how far the Women’s game has come. I know I’m proud to play every single time I step onto that tee box, and why I watched every single day leading up to the moment that Inbee Park won the Gold Medal for her country. There has got to be no better feeling than earning an Olympic Medal for your country, especially when your sport has not been represented in over a century.

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How Olympic Golf Went From an “Exhibition” to a Tournament of Real Value

By Tyler Olson

                 Justin Rose MedalI’ve never been so happy to be proven so wrong.  Circumstances leading up to the Olympic golf tournament such as format, lack of big names, timing and so on led me to erroneously believe, that the tournament would be a flop- an event with little prestige, intrigue or value. Due to the circumstances, I absolutely was not the only one to think that. When the event was added to the Olympics, the golf community was generally ambivalent, with some pockets of excitement. Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy were the most notable players who simply did not care enough to make the trip to Rio. The stroke play format and the qualification system, which had quotas for how many players could attend from each country, thus excluding some great players from the US and countries in Europe, seemed to foreshadow a routine tournament without enough star power to make things exciting. And that was all before the Zika fiasco.

But despite all of that, Olympic golf succeeded. It succeeded because the players who were there, the fans who attended, and the members of the press covering the tournament placed value in winning a medal for both the players and their respective countries. Rickie Fowler used his huge social media presence between Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat to give the average fan a window into the Olympic experience. Henrik Stenson competed with everything he had to bring home golf gold for Sweden. Bubba Watson tempered his usually irritable self and seemed to truly enjoy the tournament and the games in general. However, the most influential players were gold medalist Justin Rose and bronze medalist Matt Kuchar. Kuchar, who did not even know the Olympic tournament was stroke play just a week before, charged up the leaderboard with a 63 on the final day to sneak in for a back door bronze. He oozed class in his post-round interview.

“I was amazed by the nerves. I can assure I’ve never been so excited to finish top three in my life. The pride is busting out of my chest,” he gushed in his conversation with the Golf Channel. “I’d love to carry the momentum like this. There’s certainly nothing like winning a PGA Tour event. Here, I realize it’s third, but I’ve never felt this sort of pride busting out of my chest before.”

Rose battled Henrik Stenson all of Sunday in something resembling the 1977 Open at Turnberry’s “Dual in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. When he finally secured the gold, he put his win in a light greater than individual or even national victory:

“It’s resonated far wider than maybe my (2013) U.S. Open victory did. Basically, people are saying to me that their kids, for example, have never been into golf before could identify with the sport a lot more because of what it represented,” he said. “They could relate to it, given all the athletics and all the sports they had watched and seen athletes achieve. It brought golf into a context they could understand. They may not know what it (golf) is all about, but the fact it came down to the final hole, they could identify with that, that it was really close. It’s a hard-fought thing to win a gold medal, to win any tournament. I just think it resonated with a younger audience. I think it takes it out of the golf world and brings it into the sports world.”

These players and everything surrounding the links in Rio are what elevated Olympic golf as a triumph in a way no one could have anticipated. That momentum will carry to Tokyo in 2020 and should lead to the sport staying in the games beyond then. Players who skipped out on Rio will now recognize the value of golf gold and make the trip to Tokyo.  In much the same way as the majors are venerated globally, Olympic golf should now occupy such rarified air.

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Olympic Golf Preview

By Tyler Olson

                Despite the less than ideal circumstances that have possibly kneecapped Olympic golf before it even had a chance to get off the ground, golf is still an Olympic sport and there still is a tournament to be played. So, let’s take a look at what we’re gonna see August 11th-14th on the links at Rio.

The Course

                Designed by Gil Hanse, the 7,128 yard par-71 layout might just be the star of the show in a tournament where some of the biggest stars in the world of golf aren’t in attendance. Because it was built partially on a nature reserve, there’s plenty of wildlife for the golfers to contend with along with the other players in the field. There are monkeys and sloths and boa constrictors… oh my (terrible joke I know but I couldn’t resist). The course also plays home to a small army of capybaras (the world’s largest rodent that can grow up to 150 pounds) and a whole mess of caimans (small crocodiles that grow to be about 5 feet long). While some animals may get in the way of play, the golfers shouldn’t be in any danger as the Olympic committee hired five biologists to keep the any dangerous animals, specifically the caimans, away from tasty human-flavored snacks.

                Another side effect of the course being built in a protected area is that all 79 bunkers will be built from native sand, as Hanse was unable to import or remove any sand from the area. It should be interesting to watch how the bunkers hold up as the tournament goes on; whether they may be filled with rocks or possibly play hard compared to the perfect, fluffy sand most players are used to on tour.

                The actual layout of the course looks like it will be conducive to some exhilarating play. There are no trees or rough, so it very closely resembles a links course or something from the Australian sandbelt, giving a particular advantage to players from the British Isles and Australia. Because there is no rough at all, wayward drives should hold their speed as they careen towards the hazard areas of the course- natural sandy expanses with long, native grasses- and make for some either spectacular or impossible recovery shots.

                The final three holes are designed for eventful finishes and thrilling comebacks. The sixteenth is a drivable 303 yard par four, the seventeenth a 133 yard flip wedge of a par three, and the eighteenth a lengthy but possibly reachable 571 yard par five. While not exactly easy, there is a four-under finish out there for the taking if someone is a few strokes back in the final stretch.

 

The Odds-On Favorite                

Henrik StensonWith no Dustin Johnson or Jason Day or Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy or… well you get the point, Henrik Stenson is the highest ranked golfer playing in Rio. Not only that, but he’s fresh off a summer with an onslaught of top tens and two wins, including his first career major. Speaking of his major, which one did he win? Oh yeah, the British Open. What kind of course is the British Open played on? Links, just like the one in Rio. Possibly his biggest advantage, though: Swedes are a very patriotic people (literally in that country you cannot walk five feet without seeing their flag) so Stenson should be almost as motivated as our boy Patrick Reed. I’m not saying that Henrik Stenson is a bigger lock to win gold than the US Men’s basketball team, but I’m not not saying it either. Okay just kidding there is no conceivable circumstance where US basketball loses, or even wins by less than 25 points. But the point is that Henrik Stenson has by far the best chance of any golfer to be standing on the top of that podium come August 14th.

Players To Watch

rickie-fowler-witb-for-2016Rickie Fowler: Despite not exactly playing his best golf as of late, Fowler still holds one of the four spots on the American team. Some may look at his singular top ten in the past seven starts as a slump, I prefer to look at it as him being due. The Olympic environment may be one especially suited to Fowler too, being that since the beginning of his career, his flashy clothes, classy demeanor, and rapport with fans have made him a top figure in growing the game. While the field may not be as deep or the purse, well, literally not anything, compared to the majors or the Tour, Rickie should be very comfortable playing the part as ambassador of the game, which is really the point of these Olympics in the first place.

patrick-reed-shushPatrick Reed: When P Reed drapes himself in the stars and stripes, he seems to actually turn into one of the world’s top five players. Need we look further than his fiery performance at the previous Ryder Cup? This year, as other stars of the game dropped out of the Olympics like flies, Reed was steadfast in his desire to represent the US, “Any time I can wear stars and stripes, I do it. I get the call tomorrow, I’ll be on the flight. It doesn’t matter to me where it is, when it is. If I can play for my country, I’m going to play.” Patrick Reed wants to be at the Olympics and he’s there to win.

The Masters - Final RoundDanny Willett: As the only Olympian besides Stenson to win a major in 2016, Willett comes into the Olympics with a little added pressure. He’s been cold for most of the summer after his Masters victory and is trying to find the form that led him to a green jacket just a few short months ago. The weak Olympic field may be the perfect opportunity for the OWGR 9th ranked Willett to do just that.

emiliano-grillo-990x556Emiliano Grillo: Since coming on to the scene with wins at the Web.com Tour Championship and the Frys.com Open in late 2015, Grillo has produced a flurry of top 25’s this season and shown that he deserves to be considered one of golf’s rising young guns along with the likes of Justin Thomas and others. Grillo, an Argentinian, may also have somewhat of a home court advantage being from South America whereas most of the big names in golf will have to fly in from Europe or the United States.

 

Deep Sleepers

                Graham Delaet: Canadians always seem to rep the red and white well in international sports and Graham Delaet is looking to reinforce that stereotype in Rio. Despite being in the middle of a rough season and steadily slipping in the World rankings the past two years, Delaet recently pulled out a top-10 at the Barbasol Championship and could carry that momentum into a solid Olympic tournament and possibly a medal.

                Felipe Aguilar: Aguilar, whose play has never been good enough to bring him into the consciousness of most Americans or even watchers of the Euro Tour, will be representing Chile on his home continent in these Olympics. Limits on the number of golfers per country will let this perpetual journeyman squeeze into the 60-man field and have the chance to compare his play to some of the best in the world. Aguilar may be rounding into form just in time for Rio, as two of his last three starts on the European Tour were top-25’s. Don’t be surprised to see his name on the leaderboard heading into the last couple rounds.

                No matter how many obstacles there have been for Olympic golf or how disappointed many are with the way the tournament is being run, questionable golf is better than no golf. When the tournament starts up, it will be a welcome break from trying to be entertained by table tennis, rowing, and judo. Here’s to some good golf. 

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