Ty Votaw

Rio Olympic golf course progress speeds up

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rio Olympic organizers have significantly increased development of the first Olympic golf venue since 1904 in the last two months after previous delays, but it probably would not be able to hold a test event until less than a year before the Games, International Golf Federation officials said Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say that more work has been done in the last 45 days than in the previous six months, but I wouldn’t be too far off if I said that,” IGF vice president Ty Votaw said at The Players Championship.

The faster pace and greater man power came after a dissatisfied IGF president Peter Dawson said in late March that course construction progress was behind schedule.

“We are going to struggle to get a test event a year before the Games,” Dawson said then. “I’m not writing that off completely, but we have to recognize that might be difficult. However, I still think it will be ready in time for the Olympics.”

Two weeks after Dawson’s comments, the International Olympic Committee announced it would send executive director Gilbert Felli to Rio de Janeiro several months earlier than scheduled to oversee day-to-day business as part of a series of emergency measures to address delayed preparations in several areas. IGF officials said the golf course is one of about 10 venues Felli is working on.

The Rio Organizing Committee is responsible for delivering the Olympic golf venue. The IGF is responsible for approving it.

The next step for the development of the Rio Olympic golf course is for it to be grassed, hopefully by the end of 2014, Votaw said. Even if that target is hit, holding a test event in August 2015, one year before the Olympics, on a course with eight months of grass maturation “wouldn’t be a good step forward for us,” Votaw said.

“The likelihood of a test event a year out continues to be improbable, and how much further within that year out we go all depends on our grassing schedule and how much the golf course matures,” Votaw said.

About 10 members of the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee have been at TPC Sawgrass this week, observing operational setups for one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule — from security to catering to hospitality to ticketing. They’re taking lessons to use in planning in Brazil, a nation without a long-standing golf tradition.

“For some of them [Rio organizers in Ponte Vedra Beach], this is a very big event and bigger than what they’ve worked on,” IGF executive director Antony Scanlon said. “It gives them a bit of size and scale of what they’re facing. For others, this is what they expected.

“This is a sport that’s not very large in Brazil. The proximity of the players to the public is something that most security agencies are concerned by, and the great expertise that the PGA Tour has here is allaying their fears and helping them with their fans.”

One question yet to be answered two years out is how big the crowds will be at the Olympic golf tournaments. The Players Championship is equipped to handle 50,000 fans per day. Rio organizers have also visited the British Open and World Golf Championships events.

“To the extent that [Rio organizers] are going to be prepared for ’16, they’re going to need to be exposed to the biggest possible crowds and the biggest possible logistics and the biggest possible security issues,” Votaw said. “When you have a stadium-like golf course like this and this amount of a crowd, we thought this would be a good event for them to at least get that exposure.”

Votaw and Scanlon said IGF officials will next be in Rio in June as part of an IOC venue construction review team.

“It’s been a great partnership with Rio,” Scanlon said. “That’s why [Rio organizers] are here [in Ponte Vedra Beach].”

Another publicized issue is the status of Rory McIlroy and other players whose Olympic nationality isn’t cut and dry. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, but there is no Northern Ireland team at the Olympics. It’s been reported he could represent Great Britain, or he could be tied to represent Ireland because he competed under an Irish flag as recently as the 2011 World Cup of Golf.

The IGF hopes to finalize the nationality policy by July, two years before the Olympic golf fields of 60 men and women are determined. The fields are set by world rankings, which take into account players’ results over the previous two years.

That would make it clearer not only for a player like McIlroy, currently ranked No. 11 in the world, but also for other players from Great Britain and Ireland observing rankings to determine their chances of making the Olympics.

“If there’s a dual nationality player before the eligibility starts [in July 2014], it’s equitable for every other player from each of those countries to know who is ahead of them on the world rankings from that country,” Votaw said.

The Olympic golf field will invite everybody from the world top 15, with no more than four players per nation. Beyond the top 15, the field will be filled according to the rankings with a maximum of two players per country that does not already have two or more in the top 15.

How the IOC-NBCUniversal Olympics deal came about

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic marathon trials — 1 p.m. ET

Meb Keflezighi
AP
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The first six members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team will be determined on the streets of Los Angeles, live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday.

At the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, the top three finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races will qualify for the Rio Olympics.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials — 1-4 p.m. ET

The men’s race (1:06 p.m. ET) includes 2012 Olympic trials winner Meb Keflezighi hoping to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp in his 26.2-mile debut and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 trials in Houston.

The women’s race (1:22 p.m. ET) includes all three 2012 Olympic marathon team members — Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Kara Goucher. Plus, Amy Cragg, who was fourth at trials four years ago.

Tom Hammond hosts coverage, joined by Craig Masback, Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women

Shani Davis out of the medals at World Championships for first time

Shani Davis
AP
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Shani Davis finished fifth in his two best events, missing the podium at the World Single Distance Championships for the first time in his career.

Davis, a two-time Olympic 1000m champion and two-time 1500m silver medalist, finished 2.36 seconds behind Russian winner Denis Yuskov in the 1500m on Friday in Kolomna, Russia.

On Saturday, Davis was .68 behind Russian winner Pavel Kulizhnikov in the 1000m. Full competition results are here.

Davis, 33, is the world-record holder in both events and won a surprise World 1000m title last season, after contemplating retirement during a campaign in which he had one World Cup podium finish (a third place).

He is older than any previous World Championships men’s medalist in a distance shorter than 5000m, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl.

“I’m not a middle-type-of-the-pack skater,” Davis said last year. “If I’m not competitive with the rest of the world, and I’m sixth and seventh and eighth, whatever, then it’s not for me. I can happily move on.”

This season, Davis also has one World Cup podium finish (a third place from Nov. 20).

He struggled at the Sochi Olympics, taking eighth in the 1000m and 11th in the 1500m as part of an overall disappointing performance by U.S. speed skaters.

Later Saturday, Brittany Bowe earned her second Worlds medal in as many days, silver in the 500m behind South Korean Lee Sang-hwa, the two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder. U.S. Olympian Heather Richardson-Bergsma was fifth.

Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe were first and second in the 500m at Worlds last year and second and third in the 1000m on Friday.

Earlier Saturday, Sven Kramer captured his 19th career World Single Distance Championships gold medal and second in as many days.

The Dutchman won his ninth Olympic or World title in the 5000m. Kramer hasn’t been beaten in that race at an Olympics or Worlds since Chad Hedrick topped him at the 2006 Olympics.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on Sochi Olympic medalists