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Tuesday’s roundup: Olympics prepare for golf’s return

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

St. Andrews, Scotland — Only individual medals will be awarded next year when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Whether a team competition is added for Tokyo in 2020 depends partly on the success of golf in Rio, and more on whether the IOC deems it worthy of adding golf medals.

Based on the Olympic Agenda, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said there can be no more than 320 events in 2020.

The hard part would seem to be the format for a team competition. The answer might have come in the Youth Olympic Games last year in China.

Consider this option: The team competition would last two days and effectively kick off the Tokyo games by being held on the first weekend. It would be mixed team consisting of one man and one woman. If qualifying ended today, 28 countries could participate in a 72-hole competition. The first score would be from foursomes. The second score would be from fourballs. The final day would be singles, with each score counting.

That’s how it was at Nanjing last year, and it came down to the wire. Sweden wound up winning at 16-under 272, but only after a playoff against South Korea. There also was a playoff for the bronze between Italy and Denmark.

Based on current rankings, a team competition would feature Jordan Spieth and Stacy Lewis playing for the United States. They would compete against teams like Sweden (Anna Nordqvist and Henrik Stenson), Australia (Jason Day and Minjee Lee) and Spain (Sergio Garcia and Azahara Munoz).

The time is right for a proper competition of mixed teams in golf. The old JC Penney Classic at Innisbrook from two decades ago is outdated because of schedules and lack of interest from the men. The Battle at Bighorn was too silly.

The CVS Charity Classic, hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade, has added LPGA Tour players for several years. There could be no greater stage for a mixed team event than the Olympics. But that starts with having room in the program.

Amateurs progressing

Maybe it should not have been so startling to see two amateurs — Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge — among the top six going into the final round of the British Open. Yes, it was rare. But this year has been a strong example that the learning curve is shrinking.

A year ago, Matthew Fitzpatrick was the only amateur to make the cut in the U.S. Open. He finished 20 shots behind Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst No. 2. This year, six amateurs made the cut at Chambers Bay. Brian Campbell was the low amateur, finishing 10 shots behind Jordan Spieth.

Last year at Hoylake, no amateur made the cut in the British Open. Five amateurs made the cut at St. Andrews, and two of them were serious contenders going into the final round. Ashley Chesters was also six shots behind going into Monday, while British Amateur champion Romain Langasque was within four shots of the lead late in the third round until he faltered.

And on the day that Dunne became the first amateur in 44 years to be a 54-hole leader at a major championship (Jim Simons at Merion in the 1971 U.S. Open was the last one), don’t ignore what was going on back on the PGA Tour. Robby Shelton was three shots behind going into the last round at the Barbasol Championship, and he wound up in a tie for third.

So maybe Spieth was right. An amateur winning a PGA Tour event — maybe even a major — might not be too far off.

2011 class remarkable

Ollie Schniederjans is the latest from the class of 2011 — that’s high school, not college — to try his hand on the PGA Tour.

Schniederjans played his final event as an amateur at the British Open. He made the cut in both majors he played this year, he received exemptions to the U.S. Open and British Open as No. 1 in the world amateur ranking last year.

He has been given a spot in the Canadian Open, and hopes to do well enough in a short amount of time to at least qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals. He could have started earlier, but that would have meant giving up spots in two majors.

Others from his class include Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Rodgers and Daniel Berger. Two are solid candidates as PGA Tour rookie of the year (Thomas and Berger). One is on his way to earning his tour card through sponsor exemptions (Rodgers).

Divots

Sergio Garcia extended his streak of playing in 67 consecutive majors, the longest active streak in men’s golf. He is followed by Adam Scott (57), and Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson (46).

John Daly has been invited to play the Paul Lawrie Match Play, a European Tour event that starts July 30 in Aberdeen.

… Americans have won the first three majors of the year. The last time they swept them in one season was in 1982 with Craig Stadler, Tom Watson (twice) and Raymond Floyd.

Quotable

“When you’re under pressure, I never mind hitting a bad shot. When I’m under no pressure, it really kills me to hit a bad shot.” — Padraig Harrington.

PGA Tour

Canadian Open

Course: Glen Abbey Golf Club (7,273 yards, par 72), Oakville, Ontario.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday

Purse: $5.8 million ($1,044,000 winner)

TV: Golf Channel — 3-6 p.m., 6:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Thursday-Friday; 1-2:30 p.m., 6:30-11 p.m. Saturday; 1-2:30 p.m., 6:30-11:30 p.m. Sunday. CBS — 3-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Last year: Tim Clark won at Royal Montreal. He birdied five of the last eight holes for a one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk.

Champions Tour

Senior British Open

Course: Sunningdale Golf Club, Old Course (6,618 yards, par 70), Berkshire, England

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday

Purse: $2.1 million ($315,000 winner)

TV: ESPN2 — noon-2 p.m. Thursday-Sunday

Last year: Bernhard Langer won at Royal Porthcawl in Wales by a Champions Tour-record 13 strokes. He shot 65-66-68-67 to finish at 18 under.

LPGA Tour

Meijer LPGA Classic

Course: Blythefield Country Club (6,414 yards, par 71), Belmont, Mich.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday

Purse: $2 million ($300,000 winner)

TV: Golf Channel — noon-2:30 p.m. Thursday; 1-3 a.m., noon-2:30 p.m. Friday; 1-3 a.m., 3-6 p.m. Saturday; 3-6 p.m. Sunday

Last year: Mirim Lee won the first of her two 2014 titles, beating Inbee Park with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff.