Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic golf team: How to do it and Tiger’s chances

The men’s Olympic golf tournament is still six months away, but Americans, including Tiger Woods, trying to grab one of the four spots available in the 60-player field are already in an intense battle to get to Tokyo, where the competition begins on July 30 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Here are some key facts and dates as they relate to making the 2020 Olympic tournament:

How many players will the U.S. send?

Up to four. The top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be eligible, with a limit of four players per country. There are currently nine Americans ranked among the top 15, so clearly a highly rated U.S. player who is capable of winning Olympic gold will not be competing.

How is the rest of the field determined?

Strictly based on the OWGR as of June 22, which is after the U.S. Open. Any country can have up to four players if they are among the top 15 in the world, with no more than two per country if they are ranked lower than 15th. Because of this, players well down in the world rankings will qualify. For example, as it stands now, the 60th player in the field would be Fabian Gomez of Argentina, who is ranked 242nd in the world.

What is the qualification period?

Because the OWGR operates on a two-year cycle, the qualification period began July 1, 2018 — the last day of the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour. All points earned at events from that point through the 2022 U.S. Open comprise the world ranking on a given day and the list from which the field will be determined. That is why the OWGR today does not mirror the projected ranking as of June 22: Any points a player earned prior to July 1, 2018, will not count toward Olympic qualification, but those points are still part of the two-year cycle now. That is the rolling nature of the OWGR. For example, Woods has depreciated points for his second-place finish at the 2018 Valspar Championship and tie for fifth at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational. They will no longer be part of his record after the dates of those events pass in 2020.

How does qualifying differ from the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup?

For United States players, the world rankings are not a determining factor for either competition. Players earn points based on money earned for the Ryder Cup and based on FedEx Cup points for the Presidents Cup. European Ryder Cup players have a points list that factors in money earned on the European Tour, as well as a world list based on the world ranking points earned during the qualification period.

If the Olympics were today, who would be playing for the United States?

No. 1 Brooks Koepka, No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Dustin Johnson and No. 6 Tiger Woods. But the rankings are volatile and there are numerous players in position to earn a spot. Patrick Cantlay is seventh in the world. Xander Schauffele is ninth. Webb Simpson is 11th and Patrick Reed is 12th. Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Kuchar — who earned Olympic bronze in Rio in 2016 — are all ranked in the top 20.

Nobody has locked down a spot because there are so many events still to be played with big world ranking points being offered: the WGC-Mexico Championship, the Players Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, the Masters, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

Tournaments such as the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial will also have loaded fields offering more points.

So what are Tiger’s chances?

Good, but he is far from a lock. The good news for Woods is that he is not in danger of losing points by playing events. That can happen to players who compete often. The OWGR formula is based on average points, which is computed by taking the total number of points earned and divided by events played. But the minimum divisor used is 40 events played over two years, a number Woods will not come close to achieving. Anything over 40 is the number used to divide, so the average number can decrease if an appropriate number of points are not earned.

Here’s the bottom line for Tiger: He’s in position, but with so many big events, he will need to produce. A victory somewhere would go a long way toward qualifying, but so would several top-5 finishes. And he is looking at playing events with strong fields, so high finishes would help even more. His tie for ninth on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open earned him 6.75 world ranking points, but he probably needs to average about 15 points per event to be assured of an Olympic spot. And the points drop off drastically after the top 10.

Woods can be expected to play between eight and 10 more tournaments prior to the cutoff.

An educated guess has these as the possibilities: Genesis Invitational, WGC-Mexico Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Masters, Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Championship, Memorial, U.S. Open.

Last year, Woods skipped the Arnold Palmer and Wells Fargo, so it’s possible he plays just eight more times prior to the Olympic cutoff.

SOURCE:  ESPN.com

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Avoid this common mistake to create more power

Look at old videos of the best swings of yesteryear, and you’ll likely see the golfer’s lead knee move toward the ball during the backswing. At the same time, the lead leg’s foot would roll inward and the heel would come off the ground. For the most part, it’s become a thing of the past. With more emphasis now on fitness and strength and swinging the club from a solid base, the best players really stabilize their lead knee (left for right-handers). They use it as an anchor to wind against as they load into their trail side. Even for amateur golfers of limited physical ability, consistency and power immediately improve when that knee is relatively still during the backswing.

My associate J.J. Rivet, one of the world’s leading biomechanists, says his testing has shown that the lead knee of a modern tour player moves toward the ball no more than 8 degrees. In many cases it barely shifts. Amateurs, however, let the knee move as much as 35 degrees during the backswing. You can’t coil properly with a power bleed like that.

A drill to train better stabilization of this knee is to make one- handed rehearsal backswings while preventing the knee from moving with your other hand (above). You should feel pressure in the toes of your lead leg and the heel of your trail leg as you reach the top of the swing. It’s perfectly acceptable for the lead heel to raise as long as the knee moves slightly toward the target, not inward. —WITH RON KASPRISKE

SOURCE:  GolfDigest.com

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The 21 (yes, 21!) most painful rules incidents of 2019

Between Phil Mickelson hitting a ball in motion, Joel Dahmen calling out the motivation of Sung Kang and Tiger Woods’ non-double hit at the Hero World Challenge, 2018 was a banner year for rules controversies. Surely, with the new, simplified Rules of Golf, 2019 had no chance at providing as much rules drama as the season prior. No chance.

Wrong!

Not only did 2019 live up to the hype, it may have outdone 2018 in the rules-issue department. During the fall PGA Tour season alone, it felt like there was at least one controversy per week, each one featuring more penalty strokes than the last. Here are the most unusual rules incidents from another ridiculous season of run-ins with the law, in chronological order.

SOURCE:  GolfDigest

The Etiquetteist: 9 driving-range rules you absolutely must follow

In golf, tireless tinkerers are known as ‘range rats.’ But even rats have social norms. Which brings us to this week’s etiquette rundown: nine rules of thumb for the driving range.

1. Mind Your Divots

You’re here to practice, not to rototill the turf. Don’t tear up every patch of grass at your disposal. Keep your divots in a vertical line, without digging too deep in a single spot. The maintenance crew will thank you. So will any golfer who comes next.

Be kind to the range, Practice in a straight line instead of creating divots all over the place.

2. Watch your Angles

While firing at different targets is fair game, this is not a free-for-all. In the interest of sanity — and everyone’s safety — avoid cross-country shots. If you’re stationed at a stall on the left side range, don’t take aim at a green on the far right. Ditto for the other way around.

3. The Bucket List

Don’t tip the bucket over unless you plan to hit every single shot. Only take the balls you need and leave the rest in the bucket for the next golfer, rather than scattering them all about.

putting green rules
RULES
The Etiquetteist: 9 putting-green rules you absolutely must follow

4. Don’t Hog the Stall

Are you a masochist, bent on banging balls until your hands blister? Suit yourself. But also situate yourself in a tucked-away spot at the far end of the range, rather than in a prime location. Even then, if the range is packed, it’s not your right to go full Vijay. Finish your bucket then step aside and let another golfer take a turn.

5. Tame that Tune

We get it. You like yacht rock. Not everyone does. So if you insist on hitting to the rhythmic strains of‘Hotel California’, do it through your earbuds and spare the rest of us your outdated taste.

Don’t empty that bucket unless you plan on hitting all the balls.

6. Stay in Inside the Ropes

Those boundaries are there for a reason: the turf beyond needs time to recover. What it doesn’t need is to take a pounding from someone who thinks he’s more important than everyone else.

7. Don’t Pelt the Range-Picker

We get it. It’s tempting, taking aim at the driver in the mesh-enclosed range-picker. But what may seem to you like harmless target practice is disrespectful of the very people who are trying to serve you. If juvenile shooting is what you’re after, try downloading video game.

Bluetooth speakers golf course
INSTRUCTION
The Etiquetteist: 7 rules to follow for bluetooth speakers on the golf course

8. Give Wide Berth

This should go without saying but we’ll say it anyway: getting hit with a golf club hurts. So don’t take chances. When you’re walking behind other golfers, give them ample leeway. Twice as much as you think you need.

9. Minimize the Questions and the Commentary

If you’re looking for a lesson, book a lesson. Don’t pester your fellow rangers for tips. Exchanging simple pleasantries is okay, but this is not a place for prolonged chatter. Same goes for the monologues. No one needs to hear your moaning or groaning, and no cares that you caught that last shot fat.

SOURCE:  Golf.com

Matthew Wolff, Joaquin Niemann, Cole Hammer among 20 golfers to follow in 2020

It’s obvious that Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods are five of the best golfers on the planet. Anyone who casually follows the game or engages in the sport can tell you that much. But what about when you step outside the star and superstar realm and get a little past the most obvious contenders in this sport?

What do you find at No. 50 in the world or No. 100 or even past that? With 2020 quickly approaching and another calendar year of golf on deck, I thought it would be fun to throw 20 names at you to watch in 2020. These are in no particular order in terms of ranking, but they’re 20 guys who have a chance to take a leap (or two leaps) into stardom in professional (or amateur) golf at the start of the new decade.

Let’s jump in.

1. Matthew Wolff: Probably the most famous of this group, and he already has a win. It might be unfair to include him on a list of folks you need to know more about because I don’t know how much you already know about him. But his intangibles are off the charts and probably more impressive than anyone else on here. I could not be more in.

2. Xinjun Xhang: Blew away the competition in the Korn Ferry Tour regular season this year. He’s already earned significantly more money in the fall than he did in his entire previous season on the PGA Tour combined.

3. Ben An: This is all you need to know about Ben An and his game.

Most golf beginners would begin their journey with a mid-iron or wedge, but An was the opposite as he started with one of the hardest clubs – the 1-iron. “I liked the 1-iron, that was the first club I used,” An said. “I remember it was a club with an old-school green colored grip. It just felt fun for me. I still remember it although I was very young then.” [PGA Tour]

4. Tom Lewis: The former stud amateur came over and won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship by five after his highest-ever finish at a major championship (T11 at The Open). Currently No. 53 in the world, which is his highest ranking ever.

5. Abraham Ancer: Stole the show at the Presidents Cup, but the reality is that he was playing quality golf long before that. Starred for a while at the 2019 Players Championship, finished second at The Northern Trust and top 10 in his last PGA Tour events of the fall.

6. Joaquin Niemann: Just turned 21 and has almost matched his age with his tee-to-green ranking on the PGA Tour. Certified stud.

7. Sungjae Im: The real breakout star of the Presidents Cup. Im might be a superstar, and he has the kind of game that’s going to go on and on and on and on. All the way up to 34th in the world, and I could see him in the top 20 this time next year.

No Laying Up

@NoLayingUp

Sungjae Im is an assassin. That guy might make $50 million on tour.

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8. Scottie Scheffler: There’s a little Spieth in there in terms of the amateur career and walking in the same footsteps. He doesn’t get the same shine Spieth ever did though, but he’s going to have a good, long career.

9. Corey Conners: The best ball-striker you’ve never heard of. He was ninth (!!) from tee to green last season.

10. Bernd Wiesberger: Did you know that Bernd Wiseberger is ranked ahead of Rickie Fowler in the Official World Golf Rankings? I bet you did not know this factual information.

11. Jazz Janewattananond: Introduced himself at the PGA Championship this spring, and likely played himself into the Masters by rising into the top 50 in the OWGR by Dec. 31. He’s currently No. 45 with two weeks to go (the top 50 on Dec. 31 get in).

12. Collin Morikawa: Elite iron player. I don’t know that he has the juice to hang with Wolff and Hovland long-term, but I’m extremely excited to watch him try and play his way into that.

13. Erik Van Rooyen: Come for the joggers, stay for one of the 50 best in the world.

14. Harry Higgs: Won on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and finished second at the Bermuda Championship this fall. He made $540,000 in the fall and is getting close to earning his 2021 card.

15. Robert Macintyre: Finished sixth (!) at The Open at Royal Portrush and had four other top-10 finishes to close out 2019. Still just 23 years old.

16. Takumi Kanaya: The No. 1 amateur in the world and the No. 222 player in the world overall. It’s not often you see that combination, but the 21-year-old is winning legit pro events and nearly even took the Australian Open a few weeks ago.

17. Viktor Hovland: Vegas shouldn’t even offer odds on him winning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Would be like letting Kyler Murray be a rookie next year.

18. Cole Hammer: Another Texas stud. Took down Wolff in the match-play portion of the NCAAs earlier in 2019 and is currently the No. 2 amateur in the world. Right amount of swag, tons of game and a great pedigree. Here for it.

19. Victor Perez: He’s won an official event in each of the last four calendar years. His fall was outstanding as he took the Dunhill Links and then nearly won in China (WGC event) and Turkey (European Tour Rolex Series event). Might be a Ryder Cup threat.

20. Justin Harding: He was the “one of these things is not like the other ones” golfer in the top 15 at Augusta in April. Last year was the first time in his career that he’s played all four of the majors in a calendar year, and he made the cut at three of the four including that impressive T12 at the Masters.

SOURCE:  CBSSports

The 9 most interesting golf equipment stories of 2019

Any time a year comes to its conclusion it offers the opportunity to reflect on what occurred over the preceding 12 months. As it relates to the golf equipment scene on the professional tours, 2019 had no shortage of newsworthy stories. Hot drivers and the methods used to test them continued to be a controversial topic, specifically at the Open Championship where there was a visible split between some tour players and the governing bodies over the protocols used. Spicy drivers, however, were only a fraction of the equipment news. Players breaking clubs, losing clubs, using too many golf balls or not having enough of them caused confusion and consternation among those involved. And then there were the numerous equipment escapades of the “Golf Scientist,” Bryson DeChambeau. With that, here’s a look at our top golf equipment stories of 2019.

Driver testing at the Open Championship
Driver testing is a behind-the-scenes process that is usually a non-event. That changed when a handful of the 30 players who had their clubs tested prior to the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July saw some fail the test. Among those players was Xander Schauffele, who went public with his displeasure at the process. Schauffele’s beef that it was selective and needed more discretion was legitimate, but the testing brought to light the fact that some drivers being used on tour that were originally “legal” were unintentionally becoming nonconforming over time due to usage. Soon thereafter the PGA Tour implemented mandatory driver testing at several events, with a few drivers caught speeding at the Safeway Open. To what extent there is an issue remains to be seen, but it’s a story to follow in 2020.

Bryson DeChambeau’s many changes
You can’t have a list of top equipment stories without Bryson DeChambeau. Normally known for having all his irons the length of a 7-iron, DeChambeau became more focused on other aspects of his equipment in 2019. At the WGC-Mexico Championship, DeChambeau changed to Bridgestone’s Tour B XS ball and waxed on about the effect of atmospheric conditions on a golf ball. Prior to the Masters, he changed all the shafts in his irons and wedges. Later in the year, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, he put graphite shafts in all 14 clubs, which is believed to be a first for a PGA Tour player. Finally, at the Hero World Challenge, DeChambeau put into play a 4.8-degree driver. And what about the One Length irons? They hardly got a mention with everything else going on.

Bryson DeChambeau
David Cannon

Eddie Pepperell running out of golf balls
OK, we’ve all been there. Out on the course enduring a rough patch and worrying about running out of ammo. Heck, Tiger Woods nearly did it at the 2000 U.S. Open. Unfortunately for Eddie Pepperell, the worst fears actually came true during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open in November. In rapid fashion, Pepperell launched balls into a pond until his bag was empty, and he was ultimately disqualified. Said playing companion Martin Kaymer, “Eddie hit his shots to the green, then came over to tell us he had run out of balls. He did not ask if he could borrow one [allowable if the same model]. It did not look like he wanted to play. He did not putt with his putter on the third hole; he putted with a wedge. So there was a lot happening. I have never seen anything like that before. I only watched it on television, in ‘Tin Cup.’ This is the first time I have seen it live.” Us, too.

RELATED: The 21 (yes, 21!) most painful rules incidents of 2019

Russell Henley runs afoul of the one-ball rule
While Pepperell was DQ’d for not having enough golf balls, Russell Henley got an eight-stroke penalty for using too many. After the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic in October, Henley dug into his bag to get a few balls to sign and hand out to fans. In doing so, he noticed he had accidentally used a ball other than a Titleist Pro V1x during his round—a no-no under the PGA Tour’s one-ball rule that requires a player use the same make and model of ball throughout a round. Henley went to a rules official and explained he had used the different ball for four holes. The penalty: two strokes for each hole, turning his 69 into a 77 and a missed cut.

Steve Stricker’s venerable sticks, unusual endorsement deal
Steve Stricker went back in time—in golf equipment terms, way back in time—in putting his old Titleist 755 Forged irons, a set that debuted in 2006, in the bag at the Memorial. Stricker used the clubs a few weeks later to win the U.S. Senior Open, saying, “I’ve been trying to find some clubs and equipment that I like, and so I went back to an old set that feels really good. That’s part of it, too, I think. I’m swinging at it a little bit more confidently, feeling good with what I have in my hand.” Stricker’s putter is a golf artifact as well, an Odyssey White Hot 2 he first played at the 2006 Shell Houston Open. Two days after winning the Senior Open, Stricker signed one of the most unusual endorsement deals in golf with Odyssey. The pact called for no signage on his hat, bag or anywhere for that matter. Just that he continue to use a putter nearly 15 years old, which is right up his alley.

Steve Stricker
Stacy Revere

Harold Varner busted for assembling his driver on course
Harold Varner’s Players Championship got off to a rough start when, prior to his opening round, his driver cracked on the practice range. As such, Varner started his round with 13 clubs and intended to have another driver brought out to him, allowable under the rules. But Varner wanted to use the same shaft that was in his gamer. This too is allowable so long as the assembly of the club takes place off the course. That’s where things went wrong. After leaving the shaft back at the tee, hoping to have his agent pick it up and assemble the club before bringing it out to him, a walking scorer took the shaft out to Varner on the course. When the driver head was brought out, too, the club was assembled on the course in violation of the rule, costing Varner a two-shot penalty.

RELATED: Golf World’s Newsmakers of the Year for 2019

Tommy Fleetwod’s eBay bargain putter
Like most golfers going through a rough stretch on the greens, Tommy Fleetwood was ready for a putter change at the Omega European Masters in September. The new putter, however, turned out to be an old putter that his caddie, Ian Finnis, purchased off eBay for £90 ($109) in January. It was a birthday gift for Fleetwood, who used a similar model growing up. Fleetwood put the Odyssey DFX 2-Ball Blade in play and needed just 21 putts in the opening round. He continued to play well the rest of the week, finishing T-8 to earn the equivalent of £45,674—a pretty good return on Finnis’ original investment.

Tommy Fleetwood
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Patrick Reed snapping wedge over his knee at the U.S. Open
Varner’s broken driver was an accident. Patrick Reed’s demolition of a wedge at the U.S. Open was intentional for all the world to see. On the final hole of his second round at Pebble Beach, Reed hit a pitch shot long from behind the green then flubbed his next shot. That’s when Reed went full Bo Jackson (or Henrik Stenson) and snapped the shaft of the wedge over his knee. Reed somehow went on to get the next shot close enough to make the putt for double bogey and make the cut, but he needed a new wedge for the weekend.

FOX Sports: Golf

@GolfonFOX

Patrick Reed snaps his club over his leg on No. 18… 😳

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Lost clubs of LPGA Tour players
It was a rough year for the transport of clubs used by LPGA Tour players. In February, en route to the Honda LPGA in Thailand, a number of players including Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Brittany Lincicome had their sticks fail to get to their destination on a Cathay Pacific flight. In March, In-Kyung Kim learned her missing clubs were actually up for sale on eBay after supposedly being lost on an American Airlines flight. In July, Ryann O’Toole’s clubs failed to make it to France for the Evian Championship. When pleading her case to a British Airways agent, the agent ignorantly asked, “Can’t you just use a rental set?” And in September, two Solheim Cup players, Angel Yin and Shadoff (tough year for her) had airlines lose their fully-loaded travel bags. Luckily all the players were eventually reunited with their clubs.

SOURCE:  GolfDigest