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Aug 17, 2016 | 09:05 am

'Monster' Playoff

When was the last time you saw starting times for a playoff? That's just the case this morning at Oakland Hills outside Detroit for the last eight spots in the match-play portion of the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship. Twenty-three players finished at two-over 142 and went out from 8-9 am for the final berths. Three of the players in the 23-way tie include World No. 1 Maverick McNealy of Stanford, 2015 USGA Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz of Farmington, Minn., and 2014 USGA Mid-Amateur champ Scott Hardy of Greensboro, NC. The playoff started on the par-three 10th and all 23 players had to complete the hole before the circus moved on to the 11th, then 17 and 18, if needed. To find out who made it and who didn't, click here. The infamous South Course, the site of Ben Hogan's 1951 U.S. Open victory when he brought "The Monster" to its knees, will host the match-play portion beginning today. Duke University sophomore Alex Smalley of Wake Forest, N.C., earned medalist honors, shooting a seven-under 133, the second-lowest 36-hole score in the history of the championship. TV times: Today–Friday 3-6 on FS1, Thursday 11-1 usga.org, Saturday–Sunday Fox 3-6, Sunday 11-1 usga.org

 

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brown course

Aug 16, 2016 | 08:47 am

Golf's Fiercest Enemy

Golf in the 21st century faces several challenges—most frequently cited are the cost of the game, its difficulty, and the time it takes to play 18 holes. But enemy number one may be Mother Nature, specifically the growing scarcity of water. The latest evidence comes from drought-plagued San Francisco where one of the most popular courses in the East Bay area has announced it will close this week. Roddy Ranch, a 17-year-old J. Michael Poellet design that had been hosting a healthy 40,000 rounds a year, can no longer sustain its water bill which is close to $600,000 and escalating at 8 percent a year. “This isn’t a matter of golfers,” a club spokesman told the San Jose Mercury News. “If anything, the number of rounds has been going up.” Five other courses in the San Francisco area have shut their doors recently, each of them citing the cost/availability of water as a major reason. 

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Aug 15, 2016 | 06:05 am

Olympic Golf: What We Learned

Not only did Justin Rose (above) win the first Olympic gold medal in golf in 112 years, we learned some things worth thinking about going forward. For instance…

  • As suspected, pride does matter, at least among those players who chose to play in Rio. It’s nice to see a competition where money isn’t the big issue, but you have to feel a little bad for the 57 men who didn’t get to stand on the podium. They did get some nice shirts and bags, though.
  • Whether or not personal and patriotic pride mattered, NBC’s commentators sure thought it did and had to tell us every few minutes how important the event was and how much the players cared. Which very well may have been true, but we could have used a little less breast-beating by the broadcaster.
  • Wasn’t it nice to see players almost devoid of corporate logos? Other than something from their countries and something generally subtle from the apparel manufacturers, the uniforms weren’t walking billboards. However, Rose’s final-day shirt (also above) almost made us forget the ugly shower curtains worn by the American Ryder Cup team at The Country Club in 1999. Almost.
  • If Matt Kuchar makes the Ryder Cup team this year, don’t tell him which format he’ll be competing at each day. He seems to do just fine when he doesn’t know in advance if he’s playing singles, foursomes, four balls, match play, or a scramble.
  • Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the Europeans would seem to have an edge if the Olympics are an indicator. Although Kuchar took the bronze medal, he was surrounded by Rose (England), silver medalist Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Thomas Pieters (Germany), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain), and Sergio Garcia (Spain). Kudos to Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, both of whom battled back from weak starts to finish in the top 11. (The fourth American, Rickie Fowler, finished T37.)
  • We didn’t miss Rory, Jordan, Dustin, Jason, and the other no-shows.
  • After the negative comments about the same-old format (72 holes, stroke play), it still came down to a classic mano a mano battle between two of the world’s best. Which is pretty cool no matter where it happens.
  • Perhaps most important, the lesson to take away from four rounds in Rio is that great golf is great golf no matter where it’s played, under what conditions, or the players involved. And that has nothing to do with the Olympics.
  • And here's hoping the women put on just as good a show.
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Aug 12, 2016 | 08:49 am

The Real Star of the Rio Olympics

Setbacks, protests, fits, and starts ended up having no perceivable effect on the end result of Gil Hanse’s work on the new Olympic Golf Course in Rio. Even after an opening round 73, Bubba Watson sung the praises of the course. “The course is amazing. Not knowing what to expect, brand new golf course, has not been open that long. To see it in this condition, I mean, this is the best-conditioned course we've played all year.” If even the typically cantankerous Watson approves of the course, it is the real hero of Olympics golf.

The course produced everything that fans want to see. A surprise leader, Australia’s Marcus Fraser, emerged after an eight-under-par 63. Justin Rose made the first hole-in-one in Olympics history, and the course still showed enough bite to separate the best from the rest. This all calms the fears of those, including Hanse, who initially thought the open, rolling course may play too easy for the stars in the Olympics field.

For the golf media who ran with the story that the course was on the brink of failure these past two years? Well, it’s Gil Hanse laughing breathing a sigh of relief now.

What do you think of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio? Let us know in the comments below!

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