Phil Mickelson

Olympic golf selection ranking system revealed

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Golf is slated to return to the Olympic stage after a 112-year absence when some of the best players in the world compete in Rio 2016.

How that field of premier players will be selected to compete in Rio is becoming clearer. According to GolfChannel.com, the International Golf Federation will release a new ranking system next week that will utilize the Official World Golf Ranking to determine the 60 golfers who will compete in Brazil.

Here’s how it will work: The top 15 players in the ranking automatically qualify, with a cap of four players from an individual country in that top 15. After that, the highest ranking golfers will selected, but with a cap of just two from an individual country. The system seems designed to ensure quality while composing a widely international field. It may also leave out some of the world’s best players, particularly Americans.

If Rio 2016 began this week, Team USA would consist of Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, all top-15 players right now, would be out.

The ranking system will be the same for women, but based on the Rolex Rankings. This again could leave highly ranked Americans on the sidelines – if the tournament began today, Paula Creamer, Lizette Salas and Angela Stanford would be out, while Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr would be in.

As the host country, Brazil is guaranteed at least one man and one woman; the men’s and women’s field will also automatically include a minimum of one qualifier from each of the give continents.

According to GolfChannel.com, the way these rankings work means that players ranked as low as 300 among the men, and between 350 and 400 among the women, could qualify for Rio.

Players will begin earning points in this new system starting with next week’s events.

Olympic golf course progress speeds up

Francesco Friedrich wins historic fourth straight bobsled world title

German bob team, Francesco Friedrich, right, and Thorsten Margis, celebrate their victory  after the men's  two-man bob race at the  Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at Lake Koenigssee, Germany, Sunday Feb. 19. 2017. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)
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KOENIGSSEE, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Francesco Friedrich was again fastest in both runs to extend his lead and beat Justin Kripps of Canada for his fourth straight world championship in two-man bobsled on Sunday.

Friedrich, who held a 0.52-lead from Saturday’s opening heats, clocked 49.17 seconds and then 48.94 with his brakeman Thorsten Margis for a combined time of 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds after four runs — 1.20 ahead of Kripps and Jesse Lumsden.

The 26-year-old Friedrich says “We were simply unbeatable this week.”

Germany’s Johannes Lochner was 1.25 back in third with Joshua Bluhm, ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis of Latvia, Nick Poloniato and Neville Wright of Canada, and Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga of Latvia.

American pilot Steven Holcomb was seventh with Carlo Valdes, 1.68 back.

A skeleton and bobsled team competition was scheduled later Sunday.

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Marcel Hirscher reclaims slalom title, wraps up ‘perfect worlds’

ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Gold medalist Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates on the podium following the Men's Giant Slalom during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on February 17, 2017 in St Moritz, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Austrian Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the slalom world title, wrapping up what he called “the perfect world championships” with two golds and one silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, prevailed by .68 of a second combining two runs. Fellow Austrian Manuel Feller earned silver, followed by German Felix Neureuther, .93 behind.

Hirscher’s biggest slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, was a disappointing fourth, giving Norway fourth-place finishers in all five men’s events at worlds.

The top American was David Chodounsky in 12th.

Full Results | Race Replay

Hirscher led by .43 after the morning run and had the third-fastest second run. He finished worlds with golds in the giant slalom and slalom and silver in the super combined, missing gold by .01. All that despite entering worlds sick, reportedly spending days ill in bed.

He said that super combined silver, and especially his maiden GS title, took the pressure off Sunday.

“It was super easy for me, mentally, to [go] into this race,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I straddle at the first gate. The only thing that wouldn’t be fine is skiing slow.”

Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He previously won the slalom world title in 2013, then was upset at the Sochi Olympics, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt, who at 34 became the oldest Olympic Alpine champion.

Hirscher led the 2015 Worlds slalom by .88 after the first run, then straddled a gate near the end of the second run while his lead was evaporating.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Feller, 24, took surprise silver without a World Cup podium to his name.

Neureuther earned his third straight world slalom medal, but none have been gold.

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