Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has designs on 2020 Olympics at age 50

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If the 2016 U.S. Olympic golf team was named today, Phil Mickelson would not be one of the automatic qualifiers.

The field provisions for the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 include allowing everybody in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) top 15 with a maximum of four per country.

That’s where the U.S. qualifiers come in. Mickelson is ranked No. 11 in the world, but he’s fifth among Americans behind Tiger Woods (3), Matt Kuchar (4), Bubba Watson (5) and Jordan Spieth (10). Another four Americans are Nos. 12-15, right behind Mickelson.

Mickelson, 43, is the second-oldest among those nine players. He will be 46 when the 2016 Olympic golf field is determined. Age is not deterring the five-time major champion, who seems to have etched in stone his travel plans to Rio de Janeiro in two years.

Mickelson told ESPN’s Rick Reilly his intentions in a story published last week:

Let me get this straight. From age 43 to age 48, you’re going to play the best golf of your life?

“I think so. I’m going to win a bunch of tournaments. I’m going to win at least one U.S. Open, maybe two. And I’m going to make the 2016 Olympic team. And really, I’d love to make the 2020 Olympic team. I’d be 50. How cool would that be?”

A 50-year-old in the Olympics wouldn’t be unheard of. It happens in equestrian and sailing. But in golf?

Well, that would be incredibly difficult for an American man. But not out of the question globally.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who will turn 52 in 2016, would make the Olympic golf field if named today due to another provision, which allows two golfers per country overall once you get past the top 15.

The cigar-loving Jimenez would be the second of two golfers from Spain, behind world No. 8 Sergio Garcia. Jimenez is ranked No. 27, but if he falls one spot among his countrymen, he’d be out. The next highest ranked Spaniard is currently No. 53.

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Oldest Olympic high jump champion retires

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Spain’s Ruth Beitia, who in Rio became the oldest Olympic high jump champion by six years, announced her retirement at age 38 on Wednesday.

Beitia was pending medical results for possible arthritis, according to Marca.

She followed her Olympic title with silver at the European Indoor Championships in March but didn’t crack the top three at any 2017 Diamond League meet and was 12th at the world championships in August, her final meet.

Beitia capped a decorated career in Rio with her first Olympic medal. She did so against a field that did not include the reigning Olympic or world champions from Russia.

Beitia cleared 1.97 meters to win in Rio, the shortest gold-medal height since 1980, to become the oldest Olympic gold medalist in any jumping event. German long jumper Heike Drechsler previously held the age record.

Two women in the Rio heptathlon — gold medalist Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium and Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson — cleared 1.98 meters in that competition.

Beitia previously retired after finishing fourth at the 2012 Olympics, then came back to win her first World Outdoor Championships medal, a bronze, in 2013.

“A medal in Rio would be the last dream I have left to accomplish in this sport,” she said before the Olympics.

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Nate Holland still motivated by repeated Olympic heartbreak

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At 38 years old, Nate Holland knows PyeongChang would likely be his last chance to add an Olympic medal to a trophy case already blinding with seven X Games snowboard cross gold medals.

“I’m not there to get top 10 and go check out a hockey game,” Holland said last month. “I’ve had three Olympics that I’ve done that.”

Holland entered all three Olympics since snowboard cross debuted as the reigning X Games champion. A medal contender, if not the favorite.

He washed out each time. In the quarterfinals in Torino. In the four-man final in Vancouver. In the first elimination round in Sochi.

“There’s something about these five rings that give me a lot of drive, ambition and joy,” Holland said on NBC after his 2014 disappointment, “but they do cause a lot of heartbreak.”

Some snowboarders are ambivalent about the Olympics. Not Holland.

He remembers watching the 1988 Calgary Winter Games growing up in Idaho, a decade before snowboarders were let in. After snowboard cross was added in 2003, a motivated Holland made the subsequent World Cup team and reached the podium.

Holland chalked up a 14th-place finish in Torino in 2006 to being “young and reckless.” The miss that sticks with him to this day is Vancouver 2010, when he was the only finalist not to earn a medal.

“That’s probably the No. 1 memory of racing is that feeling of failure when I got to the bottom,” he said. “Out of a four-man heat, they’re ushering me off, pushing me out of the finish corral.

“Dude, you gotta leave. What are you doing here still? We’ve got to do a podium ceremony.”

“I’m still out of breath. My heart rate’s at 180 still.”

“What’s going on? No, dude, you need to leave. Thanks for coming, goodbye.”

“Those are motivating factors in the gym when all I want to do is go home and go change some diapers,” Holland said.

Holland and wife Christen (who commissioned that trophy case as a Christmas gift) welcomed daughter Lux on Nov. 1, 2015. Lux is already riding on her own three-foot Burton board. In Uggs.

“Thank God for FaceTime,” Holland said. “I’m able to call every day when I’m in Europe and have breakfast with my daughter.”

Her dad is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic snowboarder in the sport’s two-decade history and the oldest medalist from any country.

“Some say I’m too old,” Holland says. “I say BS.”

Holland is realistic, though. The man who used to ride by the motto “wreck or win” has become more calculated and listens to his body. The Advil doses are more frequent. He enjoys the spa.

“I come back every year and there’s definitely some question in my mind whether I’m fast,” said Holland, whose detailed injury history included coming back from a December 2013 broken clavicle to win X Games and make the Olympic team. “Every year, I give myself a little pat on the back. I’m like, all right, I’m still in that group. I’m not sitting three seconds out.”

Holland was the fastest at the PyeongChang venue on Feb. 27, 2016, winning the Olympic test event.

He may have picked up nuances on the new Olympic course that the riders half his age have not, but Holland also hasn’t made a World Cup podium since. Snowboard cross was cut from the X Games after 2016.

If Holland can’t crack the top three at any of the four Olympic selection events in December and January, he might be left off the U.S. team.

Holland said he won’t work any harder this winter than he did in 2006, 2010 or 2014. Each time, he felt satisfied with what he put in. What he left the Olympics with — Team USA clothes, maybe some hockey ticket stubs — is what’s unfulfilling.

“You want something that you can’t have,” he said. “I don’t have an Olympic medal, and I’m really passionate about it.”

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