Tiger Woods wishes Olympic golf tournament had ‘more quality’ field

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Tiger Woods won’t be competing in golf’s return to the Olympics at the Rio Games, or in any golf tournament until his ailing back allows him to get in shape. But he’s in Maryland this week for the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National, a tournament that benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.

The former world No. 1 was asked Wednesday about the upcoming Rio Olympics, and he said he wished the International Golf Federation would have implemented a better format.

“It’ll be a spectacular event just because it’s the Olympics,” Woods said during a press conference. “It would be better if we had, I guess, a more top-heavy field. For me personally, I wish that they would have gone with, let’s say, the top 50 guys in the world.”

Sixty men and 60 women will compete in Rio’s golf tournament. The top 15 players in the world golf rankings are eligible, as long as there are no more than four players from one country. The next-highest ranked players outside the top 15 are eligible as long as no more than two players come from one country.

Qualifying for Rio concludes July 11. Here are the men’s rankings as they stand now.

“I just wish they would have had more quality of a field, similar to what we face in major championships, or the world golf championships, or the Players,” Woods said. “We have these top-heavy fields and I think the Olympics really deserve that.

“But I understand they’re trying to promote the game of golf and give more participants a chance to be part of the Olympic experience and be a part of golf. And try to get more of these countries that have not traditionally been part of golf to be a part of it, and for them to grow, Brazil being one of them. To have two players that aren’t ranked very high but will still be able to compete in the Olympics, I think it’s great for the country of Brazil.”

Golf was voted into the Olympics in 2009, when Woods was still the No. 1 player in the world. He was the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year and leading money winner that year, before injuries began piling up. He returned to form in 2013, when was again the Player of the Year and leading money winner, but various injuries – most notably to his back – have since derailed his legendary career.

Now 40 years old, Woods is ranked No. 582 in the world. He hasn’t competed in 10 months.

Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler are currently the top four American men.

MORE: Rory McIlroy skips Rio Olympics due to Zika virus

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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