Canada's PGA stars set to battle for country's two Olympic spots
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Even though it technically isn’t a team, no squad is more difficult to make than Americans wanting to play in the Olympics. The maximum number is four players provided they are within the top 15 in the world ranking. Otherwise, no country can send more than two.
Five Canadians were at The Sentry for the PGA Tour opener. Corey Conners leads the way at No. 38, followed by Adam Hadwin (48), Nick Taylor (54), Adam Svensson (57) and Mackenzie Hughes (63).
The Olympic ranking ends on the Monday (June 17) after the U.S. Open.
“I feel like Corey has a little bit of a lead in the world ranking, so basically four of us are fighting for that last spot,” Hadwin said. “And it’s going to take a lot of good golf. You play well one week in an event like this and you move up a lot.”
Conners and Hughes represented Canada in the Tokyo Games.
“If I had a year like I did last year, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be one of those top two guys,” said Nick Taylor, who won the Canadian Open last June. “But we’re all so close to where I feel like it’s going to come down to the last putt.”
It’s not just a Canada issue. The United Kingdom has five players in the top 60, while Australia has five in the top 50, though Cameron Smith has limited chances for points because he plays for Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
“I think everyone is pretty hungry to be there,” Conners said. “It will be a battle to the end, for sure. It’s going to be fairly competitive for those two spots.”
The Canadians have two goals this year. It starts with the Olympics in Paris. And then there’s the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal in September, with Mike Weir as the captain.
That also is based on the world ranking, with only six automatic spots available. Asked to choose which team he would rather make if he could only chose one, Conners picked the Presidents Cup. He was 15 and remembers Weir beating Tiger Woods in singles in 2007 the last time it was held at Royal Montreal.
“That’s going to be a special one,” Conners said.
Rickie Fowler and Puma developed a hat with an “L” on the front to bring awareness and raise money for Lahaina and its slow recovery from the deadly Aug. 8 wildfires.
Otherwise, he had a clean look at Kapalua, at least clean by his standards.
Gone were the logos of Farmers Insurance, Rocket Mortgage and Mercedes. Two of them will not be coming back, and one of those raises questions about the tournament at Torrey Pines.
“Farmers decided not to extend,” Fowler said. “I think they have a new CEO and are downsizing. I don't know if they're going to do much in golf. They'll go with their contract in golf (Torrey Pines). I don't know if they'll extend on that.”
Raul Vargas started as CEO at the start of 2023 and the company announced in August it would be laying off 11% of its workforce, or about 2,400 employees, as part of a restructuring to increase efficiency.
It has been title sponsor at Torrey Pines since 2010, with the latest extension through 2026. Wells Fargo already has announced it would not renew its title sponsorship of the PGA Tour event in North Carolina after this year.
“My term is up and they decided not to go forward,” Fowler said. “Get it. Understand. Had a great run, great to be associated with the tournament at Torrey that was once closest to where I grew up.”
He said the Mercedes deal also expired, and that decision was made last May.
As for Rocket Mortgage, Fowler said the latest contract expired and they are finalizing plans on something new that wasn't quite done in time for the PGA Tour's season opener. Fowler ended a long drought last year by winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
WRONG BALL, WRONG MESSAGE
It started with Justin Rose hitting the wrong ball, and soon the story became about Taylor Moore not communicating with Rose, which also was wrong.
It was a weird start to the year.
Moore, in his debut at The Sentry from his victory last year at the Valspar Championship, had been driving it longer than Rose for the early part of the opening round. Both were using a Titleist ProV1 with the number 1 (different markings).
“I only play 1s and 4s out of superstition,” Moore said.
Rose decided to switch to a number 2 on the seventh hole, and hit a beauty that data shows went about 30 yards longer. Rose got to the first ball and hit to the green. Moore stepped up to the ball and realized Rose had hit his ball, a two-shot penalty.
The original story that came out suggested Moore had switched balls and didn't tell Rose. Moore eventually took to social media to explain the situation.
“It was an unfortunate situation. Justin and I both felt terrible,” Moore said after this third round at Kapalua. He suspect his apology to Rose over the situation led to confusion that he was the one who switched golf balls.
Moore marks his ball with a black line and two dots. Rose only uses a black line. Rose offered his own self-deprecating post on the blunder.
And the former U.S. Open champion and Olympic gold medalist responded quite well. He shot 31 on the back nine in the first round, and closed with a 61 on Sunday.
“I was happy to see Justin play well on the back nine,” Moore said. “He handled it like a pro.”
WEST TEXAS SPECIAL
Ludvig Aberg went from the south of Sweden to the plains of West Texas and added to his diet. Seems the rising star is a big fan of ribeye steak.
Aberg spent four years at Texas Tech, and he says his favorite restaurant was the West Table Kitchen and Bar. What to order? That was easy.
“You wouldn't want to get any kind of seafood in Lubbock,” Aberg said.
Aberg said Tech assistant Nathan Weant was obsessed with steak and it grew on him.
“Any time we would go to a tournament, there would always be a steakhouse plan,” Aberg said. “He would always try to make us order steaks, and I fell in love with the ribeye, medium rare. I try not to have it too often, but every now and then it's nice.”
He did not mention the West Table's dessert — stuffed sopapillas.
Chris Kirk has history on his side. Since the FedEx Cup began in 2007, only won winner at Kapalua failed to reach the Tour Championship. That was Daniel Chopra in 2008. ... Global investment firm Fir Hills, based in the Bay Area, will sponsor the LPGA Tour event in Los Angeles with Se Ri Pak as the host. The Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship will be March 21-24 at Palos Verdes Golf Club. ... The Sony Open starts the first “swing” on the PGA Tour with a special points list. The leading five players on the list will get in the next $20 million signature event at Pebble Beach.
STAT OF THE WEEK
According to ShotLink, Tom Hoge was the only player at Kapalua that did not hit a tee shot 400 yards or longer. The other 58 players at The Sentry combined to hit 236 drives that went at least 400 yards. Hoge's longest was 397 yards.
“I hope it stays with me forever. It’s a huge part of my life still now. Definitely the best thing that I’ve ever done in my life is to get sober. I don’t feel like it’s taking away from anything that I’m accomplishing. It’s 100% the reason why I’m able to do what I do.” — The Sentry winner Chris Kirk, on his recovery from alcoholism being mentioned whenever he plays well.
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf