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.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Fenway Big Air
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Fenway Park will host some of the world’s best freeskiers in the one-of-a-kind Big Air at Fenway, live on NBC Sports Live Extra on Friday night.

Big air skiers will descend from a ramp that’s four times higher than the Green Monster inside the hallowed Boston Red Sox home.

Ski big air is most like slopestyle of the current Olympic disciplines, except skiers get one jump per run.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

On Thursday, Canadian Max Parrot and American Julia Marino won the snowboard big air competitions at Fenway Park.

Big Air at Fenway coverage will conclude with an NBC show on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

MORE: Olympic champ suffers concussion at Big Air at Fenway practice

Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympics open with homages to 1994

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In an homage to the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics, Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway lit the Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympic cauldron to cap the Opening Ceremony on Friday night.

The princess’ father, Crown Prince Haakon, lit the 1994 Olympic cauldron in a very similar fashion (video here). Princess Ingrid Alexandra was born in 2004.

The Opening Ceremony, held outdoors at a ski jump (same venue as 1994) in sub-freezing temperatures, included a speech from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“I’m just a little bit too old to compete in the YOG,” Bach said, urging listeners to use the hashtag #IloveYOG during the nine-day Winter Games.

The ceremony included Olympic legends, such as 2010 figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim and eight-time Olympic cross-country champion Bjorn Daehlie carrying the Olympic flag.

Marit Bjoergen, a 10-time Olympic medalist cross-country skier, handed the Olympic flame to the princess.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET, plus daily coverage throughout the Winter Games. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on U.S. Olympic medalists from Sochi