PGA Championship notebook: Woods 'would certainly welcome' playing in 2020 OlympicsWould be the fourth and final American in Tokyo if qualifying ended today
May 14, 2019
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- May 14, 2019
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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Tiger Woods, who is coming off a seismic, comeback victory at the Masters Tournament last month – his 81st on the PGA TOUR, including 15 majors – answered a variety of questions at his press conference at the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Tuesday. One was about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Woods’ victory at the Masters put him sixth in the Olympic qualifying table, fourth among Americans. Should he stay there – qualifying ends June 22, 2020 – he would join a U.S. squad also to include, as it stands now, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas.
Would Woods want to play?
“Yes,” he said. “I've never played in the Olympics, and I'm sure that I won't have many more opportunities going forward at 43 years old now to play in many Olympics. Yes, that would be a first for me and something that I would certainly welcome if I was part of the team.
“Getting there and making the team is going to be the tough part.”
At 43, and with a fused lower back, Woods has said he’ll be cutting back on his competitive starts going forward in order to conserve energy. He showed he was serious when he missed the Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament he normally plays, two weeks ago.
“How many events -- how many events do I play?” he said of Olympic qualifying. “Do I add a couple more to get in? These are all questions that will be answered going forward. I just know that if I play well in the big events like I did this year, things will take care of itself.” - Cameron Morfit
McIlroy anticipates playing for Ireland
He missed the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but Rory McIlroy said Tuesday he will probably play in the 2020 Tokyo Games, and definitely for Ireland.
McIlroy, whose latest win was one of his biggest at THE PLAYERS Championship in March, is currently fourth in the Olympic qualifying table, but leads all Irish players by a wide margin. His allegiances for the Olympics have been complicated by the fact that citizens of Northern Ireland can hold both British and Irish citizenship, meaning McIlroy could decide to play for the Union Jack (British) or the green, white and orange “tricolor” Irish flag.
“I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.”
He wrestled with the issue of Great Britain or Ireland but put the issue to bed in 2014 only to not play as golf made its return to the Olympics two years later.
He’s more committed to play next time, and for the same tricolor flag he represented as a boy.
“I've thought about that for a long time,” McIlroy said Tuesday, “and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.” - Cameron Morfit
Harrington coming back from broken wrist
Padraig Harrington is coming off a final-round 65 and a tie for 12th at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week. Nothing to write home about for a player with six PGA TOUR wins, including three majors, but Harrington, 47, has been pleased to show flashes of form. He’s still coming back from a broken wrist, suffered when he slipped on the stairs at home in December.
“I'm happy with how I played last week,” said Harrington, who will captain the 2020 European Ryder Cup team at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits. “Not too thrilled -- most people come up to me and say I had a great week last week. I finished 12th. It’s not a great week.”
Harrington was unstoppable circa 2008, when he won the PGA at Oakland Hills; the fact that anyone would think of a T12 finish as “great” speaks only to his relatively quiet recent results. A lot of that is due to his wrist, which he initially believed was merely a sprain, not a break.
“It's still not 100 percent,” he said, “but it doesn't seem to be interfering too much with my golf. I'd like to have played a bit more coming into this week. I'm kind of -- I think a lot of players would have that going into majors, that they feel like, Oh, I wouldn't mind having another week or two. I certainly feel that way this time round.”
Perhaps his history in New York will make up for it. He tied the Bethpage Black course record (64) at the 2012 Barclays, and won the 2005 Barclays at Westchester Country Club.
“I'm just not prepared, basically,” he said, “so hopefully I'll overcome that in some way or the other. … I obviously have a particularly good time everywhere I go in the States, but even more so when you go to the East Coast, there's quite an Irish representation. I like coming here.” - Cameron Morfit
Johnson: ‘Courses I played on cost $10’
Bethpage is sometimes referred to as the People’s Country Club for the fact that it’s a public course. And it’s no high-end daily fee course, either, with greens fees just $65-75 for New Yorkers on the weekdays and weekends, respectively, and $130-150 for non-residents.
Twilight rates for the notoriously difficult A.W. Tillinghast design, which will play to a par-70 this week: $39 for residents, $78 for non-residents. When the course first opened in 1936, golfers could play it for as little as $1, but they had to shell out twice that much to get out on the weekend.
So it doesn't break the bank.
Asked when he last paid for golf, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson said he wasn’t sure.
“I think when I bring guests out to the Bear's Club they charge me a guest fee,” he said. “I don't know how much, though. I've never looked at my bill. Actually, the last time I paid for myself? I couldn't tell you. I don't remember. But yeah, it probably wasn't very much because the courses I played on, I think they were like $10.” - Cameron Morfit
Leishman hopes back will hold up
Marc Leishman picked up a club for the first time in over a week Tuesday at Bethpage Black to test out the back injury that forced his withdrawal from last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
Despite having a bulging disc brought upon by sleeping on his stomach after an exhausting but highly successful two-day charity program for his Begin Again Foundation last week the four-time PGA TOUR winner is hopeful he will take his place in the PGA Championship field.
“Just got to manage it and not do anything silly, particularly in the cold weather and slow practice rounds with the waiting around,” the Australian said.
“It was just one of those things that happens and unfortunately it happened to me on a week I really love. I have good history at the Nelson and it was a shame to miss it.
“Feels all right now after a few holes so hopefully it will be right to go Thursday.” - Ben Everill