Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods: Olympics ‘very important’ as he attempts climb to Rio 2016

3 Comments

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — No more than four U.S. men’s golfers can compete at the Rio Olympics, and 53 Americans are currently ranked higher than Tiger Woods.

But Woods, the 14-time major champion and No. 125-ranked golfer in the world, is prepared to fight for a place in the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904.

“It’s very important,” Woods said following a practice round at The Players Championship on Tuesday morning. “Guys want to solidify themselves, play for not only their country and that but also have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in a very long time: win a medal in golf.”

The Olympic golf field of 60 can include no more than four players per nation inside the top 15 of the Official World Golf Ranking on July 11, 2016. It will likely dip into the 300s in the rankings to complete the field.

If the field was chosen on today’s rankings, the fourth and final American to earn an automatic place would be No. 8 Dustin Johnson. No. 11 Jimmy Walker, No. 12 J.B. Holmes, No. 13 Jimmy Walker and No. 15 Patrick Reed, plus 45 more Americans ranked ahead of Woods would be shut out.

The way the Official World Golf Ranking works, Woods and others have plenty of time to jump into the Olympic field. The ranking is made up of a two-year rolling window of results, with the most recent results weighted the heaviest.

Therefore, more than half of the results that go into the ranking on the Olympic cutoff date next year have yet to be accumulated.

Woods is off to a very slow start, though, due in part to a back injury that kept him to one tournament from September until late January. His tie for 17th at the Masters last month helped, but given Woods does not play week-in and week-out on tour, he must make the most of every tournament that he does play.

Rankings points are divided by the number of tournaments each golfer plays, with the minimum divisor being 40. The previous seven seasons, Woods played a total of seven, 16, 19, nine, 12, 17 and six PGA Tour events, never reaching 40 tournaments for a two-year total (on the PGA Tour, at least). If he does not play 40 tournaments in the two years before the July 11, 2016 cutoff, he’s leaving ranking points on the table.

Woods said he will play more events from here on out. His announced future events are the Memorial and U.S. Open in June and the Greenbrier Classic, British Open and Quicken Loans National in July. It will mark Woods’ second appearance ever at the Greenbrier Classic, which debuted in 2010. The other four tournaments are Woods regulars, when healthy.

“Making my way up from where I’m at is just going to take consistency, and I need wins in there,” said Woods, who hasn’t won since August 2013. “It’s something that I’ve done when I’ve made my comebacks before.”

Woods climbed from No. 58 on Nov. 5, 2011, to No. 6 on March 24, 2012, and eventually No. 1 on March 23, 2013. He won eight combined PGA Tour events in 2012 and 2013 after winning zero in 2010 and 2011.

Woods compared the Olympics’ importance for golfers to tennis players, who also play four major tournaments every season that carry more prestige than the Olympics.

“In tennis, it means a lot to them now,” Woods said of the Olympics’ growth for tennis players, since it was added as an official sport in 1988. “But the first year you got mixed messages from the guys because they’re saying, OK, I need the rest, blah, blah, blah. … I’ve heard some things over the years with golf when it got introduced [in 2009], guys were kind of on the fence about it [such as Adam Scott], but certainly I think it’s swaying in the direction of guys all wanting to play in it.”

Also Tuesday, Woods commented on a “brutal” last three days that included the announcement that he and Olympic champion Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn ended their relationship and the nine-year anniversary of his father’s death, both on Sunday.

“I haven’t slept,” Woods said.

Who will be the oldest men’s golfer at Rio Olympics?

Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

Jordan Thompson
FIVB
Leave a comment

It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!