Tiger Woods

Golf, Turkey, and the Olympic effect

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By the time golf makes its triumphant Olympic return at the 2016 Rio Games it will have been on hiatus for 112 years. But with the sport’s recent exponential growth worldwide, now seems a perfect time to add it back on to the schedule.

In related news, Turkey decided to point out how great an Olympic host it would be with two major golf events in the weeks following the Ryder Cup. First, the World Golf Amateur Team Championship, which brought in 72 teams from around the world. Next the World Golf Finals, with appearances by one-name-is-enough athletes Tiger and Rory.

Now the country’s golf organization has announced that it will host the first ever Turkish Golf Open next November, which will bring in the sport’s top names and award $7 million in prize money.

This seems far from coincidental considering Instanbul’s Olympic bid, especially as golf has grown to become the eighth most popular world sport with an estimated 450 million fans. Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation, told the AP that an “emphasis on the Olympics” is very evident.

“The interest is there,” Dawson said following the IGF biennial meeting. “It’s amazing that in these countries they think of Olympic sports, instead of golf as its own sport. It’s certainly starting to serve to grow the game.”

Yes, this year’s World Golf Amateur Team Championship was the first time the event has hosted a full 72-team field, and even had a waiting list that included Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Namibia and Lebanon… but is the worldwide demand because of the Olympics or is golf in the Olympics because of the worldwide demand?

Those in Turkey don’t seem to care what the order is, but they’re pushing hard and making sure everyone takes notice: Turkey is a golf destination now, and maybe an Olympics destination sooner rather than later.

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named