Where will British fit among Wimbledon, Olympics?
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Lost in the opening round of the British Open was an announcement from the All England Club that will make it even more difficult for golf to devise a busy summer schedule in an Olympic year.
Wimbledon will move back one week starting in 2015 to allow a three-week break after the French Open.
The British Open had considered moving back one week in 2016 in a summer that will be filled with two major championships, the Ryder Cup and the golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To do that now would mean the Open would clash with Wimbledon, which wouldn’t go over well in Britain.
“The Wimbledon date change does impact on this with regard to when it’s most sensible to play the Open that particular year, so we are going to have to go slightly back to the drawing board on this,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A and the president of the International Golf Federation, which oversees Olympic golf.
Dawson said the IGF made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee that no major event would clash with the Olympics. The first step is to figure out the dates of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. If it were held in its normal time frame, it would clash with the PGA Championship.
The PGA of America, which stages the PGA Championship the second week in August, already has offered to move up to the last week in July.
The Olympics will take up two weeks for golf — one week for the men, one week for the women. The LPGA Tour added a fifth major at the Evian Masters in France (which is held this week). The Women’s British Open this year has moved to September.
Also to be considered is the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, which if held too late would push back the Ryder Cup outside Minneapolis.
The 2016 schedule isn’t the only thing under review.
Dawson said the IGF planned to take another look at the format for when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century. When it put together its proposal, the format was for 72 holes of stroke play, with medal awarded only to individuals.
“I think we all had this at the back of our mind at the start, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to make the Olympic competition a little bit different, at least from the week in, week out competition?’” Dawson said.
He believes that a standard 72-hole event of stroke play is the best way to determine a champion, though the idea of an element of match play, or a team competition, has been raised and “it’s those areas we’ll be having a look at.”
Dawson’s personal opinion is to stick with stroke play, and the format is unlikely to change for 2016. Even if the IGF wanted to change the format, it would require approval from the IOC.
“Golf’s bid was based on individual competition,” he said. “In order for that to be changed — and I’m not sure that it ought to be changed — but if it were to be, we’d have to get agreement from the IOC sports department.”
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RYDER CUP: The U.S. Ryder Cup team is starting to take shape with three weeks remaining to get one of the eight automatic spots, and every shot is looking more important. Brandt Snedeker, now in 11th place in the standings, lost precious points when he bogeyed the last hole and fell into a tie for third with Tiger Woods at the British Open.
The top eight going into the Canadian Open are Woods, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.
PGA champion Keegan Bradley is at No. 9, though he is the equivalent of $640,000 behind Mahan.
Each $1,000 in PGA Tour earnings is worth one point, and it’s worth double that in the majors. The qualifying ends with the PGA Championship on Aug. 12, and captain Davis Love III would have three more weeks before making his four wild-card selections.
Among those outside the top eight are Steve Stricker, who has played on the last two teams, and Jim Furyk, who has played on every team since 1997. Both of them would have to win either the Canadian Open or Bridgestone Invitational, or come in third at the PGA Championship.
Rickie Fowler is at No. 10, Dustin Johnson is at No. 12 and Bo Van Pelt is at No. 14.
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COMING TO AMERICA: More than just joining the PGA Tour, Lee Westwood is looking to buy a home in Florida and moving his family to America.
It wasn’t an easy decision, especially when it involves moving a young family, though it made sense to the Englishman.
“I’m not doing it merely for the sake of it,” Westwood said. “I think playing over there on the courses all the time and with those kinds of practice facilities and the right kind of weather should have a big effect.”
And there’s one other reason — three of the four majors are held in the United Sates.
Westwood said he has been contemplating a move for a couple of years, and if there were any doubts, this summer might have persuaded him.
“The English winters, and the English summers,” he said, referring to the record rain this year. “And the fact I like playing on the PGA Tour now. It was well-reported that I struggled over there, but over the last few years, I’ve seemed to enjoy it a lot more and now have a good time over there.”
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DIPLOMATIC PLAYER: Gary Player was asked about Colin Montgomerie’s ambition of winning the senior Grand Slam, and as he sat in a room full of British writers, he paused.
“I can’t win answering that,” Player said. “Tommy Bolt said, ‘If you say the wrong thing, you get on the front page. If you say the right thing, you get on the back page.’”
Player opted for somewhere in the middle.
“Obviously, you must have that ambition,” Player said. “I really don’t think that he knows how tough it is. Colin is a wonderful golfer. ... I expect him to win majors.”
He just didn’t say anything about Monty, who turns 50 next June, winning them all.
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DIVOTS: The board of the Official World Golf Ranking decided to leave the system alone for now. There had been discussion to give winners of the major championships more than 100 points. The next two highest-rated events this year were The Players Championship (80 points) and the World Golf Championship at Doral, which awarded 78 points to the winner. Doral, along with the other WGCs, has a limited field of about 80 players, compared with 156 players at all the majors except the Masters.
With his 68-68 weekend, Ernie Els set the British Open record with most career rounds in the 60s at 39. Nick Faldo had 37 sub-70 rounds. ... Dave Kindred, whose sports journalism career includes work for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been selected as the 2013 Memorial Golf Journalism honoree. Kindred, who now contributes to Golf Digest, will be recognized at the Memorial next year at Muirfield Village.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: The 54-hole leader has failed to win 11 of the last 14 majors.
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FINAL WORD: “Good players travel well anywhere they play.” — Jason Dufner.