Nick Willis

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World champion, Olympic medalist to miss 1500m at track worlds

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Reigning world champion Elijah Manangoi and two-time Olympic medalist Nick Willis will be absent from the 1500m at the world track and field championships that start next week in Doha.

The Kenyan Manangoi is out with a reported ankle injury.

Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from New Zealand, will miss worlds for the first time since 2009 after not receiving an invitation from the IAAF, according to New Zealand’s track federation. The 36-year-old did not run a fast enough time this year to qualify outright and was not ranked high enough to receive any extra spots awarded by the IAAF in the 1500m.

Kenya is still favored to win despite lacking Manangoi and the suspended Asbel Kiprop, who won three straight world titles from 2011-15.

That’s because of Timothy Cheruiyot, the 2017 World silver medalist who lost just three times over the last two years, taking second to Manangoi in each instance, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The U.S. contingent at worlds is led by Matthew Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years.

MORE: U.S. roster for track and field worlds

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Bernard Lagat competes in World Speedgolf Championships (video)

Bernard Lagat
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Two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat was plenty fast in his World Speedgolf Championships debut.

He had a little more trouble with his clubs, though.

Lagat, one of the world’s greatest middle distance runners, improved nine strokes from his first round Saturday to his second round Sunday, playing 18 holes each day.

He finished in 24th and last place.

The more seasoned Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medalist for New Zealand, placed 13th.

“I think I got one par today,” Lagat said, excitedly, Sunday. “That got me motivated.”

Speedgolfinternational.com defines speedgolf:

Speedgolf is pretty much just what it sounds like; golf played at a very fast pace. Competitors play 9 or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete the round and the total strokes taken. For instance, if a competitor shoots a golf score of 80 and it takes 60 minutes to complete their round, their Speedgolf score (SGS) would be 140 (80 + 60).

Competitors generally carry 5-6 clubs in a small bag, wear athletic golf attire, put on their running shoes and they are ready to go.

The only real differences from traditional golf are the flagstick is left in when putting and lost balls are dropped anywhere on the line of flight of the previous shot with a one-shot penalty.

Lagat totaled 219 strokes and was actually much slower than the winner, Rob Hogan, who has run five miles in 30:12, according to LetsRun.com. Hogan ran the course in 39:31 while shooting a 77 on Saturday. In contrast, Lagat’s better day, Sunday took 47:38 with 110 strokes.

Lagat said his first round Saturday was his “first time all the way through” the 18 holes at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

“Of course I was nervous,” said Lagat, adding he lost at least one golf ball and was confused at which green to hit at one point. “When you don’t know how to do something, and you’re in front of people who know how to do it. … Even when I’m teeing off like this, I’m thinking to my head, somebody knows that I’m doing something wrong.

“Once I (teed) off, I’m like, ‘Nobody’s going to care now. I’m going to go.'”

It sounds like Lagat’s golfing days aren’t over.

“Nick (Willis) used the word, ‘I’m hooked,'” Lagat said. “And I think I’m hooked.”

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Amazing view of the ocean- Bandon Dunes.

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How will Bernard Lagat fare at World Speedgolf Championships?

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Bernard Lagat‘s season didn’t end with the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday.

No, the four-time Olympian has one more major international competition left — the World Speedgolf Championships.

Lagat and Fifth Avenue Mile winner Nick Willis, an Olympic silver medalist from New Zealand, are among the entrants at the Oct. 26-27 event in Bandon, Ore.

What is speedgolf?

Let speedgolfinternational.com explain:

Speedgolf is pretty much just what it sounds like; golf played at a very fast pace. Competitors play 9 or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete the round and the total strokes taken. For instance, if a competitor shoots a golf score of 80 and it takes 60 minutes to complete their round, their Speedgolf score (SGS) would be 140 (80 + 60).

Competitors generally carry 5-6 clubs in a small bag, wear athletic golf attire, put on their running shoes and they are ready to go.

The only real differences from traditional golf are the flagstick is left in when putting and lost balls are dropped anywhere on the line of flight of the previous shot with a one-shot penalty.

The 2012 world champion, Chris Walker, carded a 77 and a 76 in times of 53 minutes, 29 seconds and 56:59 for a total of 263:28 and an $18,000 grand prize.

Lagat doesn’t have a registered golf handicap, and his personal best is an 89 in five years of playing. Lagat will have to rely on his speed, which is, of course, world class. A course is usually about four miles long, and Lagat’s personal best in the 5,000 meters (3.12 miles) is 12:53.60.

“I’m just going to go there and enjoy it,” Lagat, 38, told Spikes magazine, adding that he’d like to see Michael Phelps give it a shot. “If I get a round of 90 and I run 40 mins I think I’ll be very competitive. The winners of these events are very good athletes, but they are also very good golfers who can hit 71 or 72 shots. To play that consistently and run that fast is unbelievable. For me, a very good day is to hit under 90.”

The world record 109:06, a round of 65 in 44:06 in 2005.

Willis, with a nine handicap, “could be a threat to win,” Speedgolf International executive director Tim Scott told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-GuardJ.J. Killeen, who played 33 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2012, is among the best golfers expected to compete.

This isn’t the first time a noted distance runner has ventured into speedgolf. Steve Scott, who ran a record 136 sub-4-minute miles in the 1970s and 1980s, played an 18-hole round in 29:33 in 1982, carding a 95.

Willis has said he learned about speedgolf from Scott’s Wikipedia page.

“Oxygen debt is a bit of an issue, so you have to run slightly within yourself,” Willis told Runner’s World. “The key is to be comfortable not taking long to set up your shot and swing. I have never been one to take practice swings anyway, so I haven’t had to alter my game too much.”

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