DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, asked to be “global ambassadors” during golf’s all-out sales pitch to be part of the Olympics, want to build the course in Brazil where the Olympics will be played in 2016.
Nicklaus said he and Sorenstam have written a letter to the International Golf Federation requesting they be considered as architects of the first Olympic golf course since 1904.
“I think this is a very functional partnership,” Nicklaus said. “I hope we can work a deal.”
There figures to be no shortage of architects. Henrique Lavie, commissioner of the Tour de las Americas, said last month that already some dozen course design companies have shown an interest.
“There’s not a public course in Brazil,” said Nicklaus, who agrees with Lavie that it is imperative for the public to have access to the golf course long after the Olympics leave Rio de Janeiro, “even if it’s a resort.”
Nicklaus said one potential site already has been identified. If selected, he said he and Sorenstam would collaborate on the strategy of each hole – Nicklaus from championship tees for the men, Sorenstam with women in mind.
“I’ll be surprised if they don’t select us,” Nicklaus said. “But I’m sure other people are interested.”
Nicklaus Design has 341 courses open for play in 34 countries, with Nicklaus directly involved in the design of 271 courses. He said with the Olympics only six years away, the IGF would have to make a decision on an architect “pretty quick.”
Not so fast, said David Fay, who represents the USGA on the federation. The first step is to find an executive director for the IGF, the group recognized by the IOC. He said officials hope to find one by the end of the year.
Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs, is leading the IGF until it hires a director. He said a couple of sites have been considered, but the entire process is in the early stages.
“It’s still possible we could use an existing course,” Votaw said.
If a golf course is to be built, the IGF would pick the architect, but the host committee in Rio would pick up the cost, much like building a stadium or arena for other sports.
Fay confirmed that IGF members – representing all the major golf organizations – received the Nicklaus-Sorenstam letter.
“It was a very nice letter,” he said. “When you get a letter from two Hall of Famers, that will get a lot of attention. But there definitely will be a process to go through. Sometimes there’s a feeling that you don’t want to Americanize the process. We’ve been very respectful of the fact, as we should be, that it is an international game.”
PLAY MORE GOLF: Going into the 2009 season, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem encouraged players to add a tournament to their schedule out of consideration to title sponsors in a tough economy.
The plea now stands a decent chance to become policy.
One proposal being formulated for the policy board would require top players to add one tournament from a short list of events that traditionally have weak fields. Still to be determined is how to define a “top player,” whether it’s the world ranking or FedEx Cup standings.
Other questions that emerged from meetings last week at the Memorial is what happens if all the top players pick the same tournament, the penalty for those who don’t play and whether a top player adding one tournament will take another tournament off his schedule.
Even so, board member Brad Faxon said, “I don’t see any big hurdles.”
The board is expected to have a proposal to consider at its next meeting in July.
SEVE’S DOG: In an interview with Golf Digest magazine, Seve Ballesteros mentioned the number of champions who have sent him notes or called him while he recovers from a brain tumor.
Arnold Palmer sent him a picture of a dog.
Actually, it was a photo of the King’s dog, named “Mulligan.”
“Because the doctors saved my life, they say now I use my mulligan,” Ballesteros told the magazine. “So Palmer’s picture says, ‘Here’s a Mulligan for you.'”
The Spanish great, however, decided to get a dog of his own to ease the loneliness. He acquired a Labrador puppy, and after watching Phil Mickelson’s inspiring victory at the Masters, Ballesteros decided to name the dog, “Phil.”
TWO YEARS IN PARADISE: One of the best perks of winning on the PGA Tour is starting the year at Kapalua, although not everyone feels that way. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have not played the last five years, and some Europeans (Padraig Harrington) don’t go because it is their offseason.
This year, the field was only 28 players.
The PGA Tour is moving closer to giving a two-year exemption to the SBS Championship for PGA Tour winners. How close? Joe Ogilvie said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has brought it up to the Players Advisory Council six consecutive meetings.
That would make for a deeper field at Kapalua, and most players on Maui tend to stay another week to play the Sony Open in Honolulu, even though it had its strongest field this year.
Then again, it may mean the tournament must provide more hotel rooms at the Ritz-Carlton.
Ogilvie understands the concept, but he questions whether Finchem is going about it the right way.
“The first thing Tim says is that we need a stronger field,” Ogilvie said. “The players say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. This is the best tour in the world and these are all tournament winners.’ If I were Tim, I’d send green sheets (player newsletters) to the wives and say, ‘Look, we want to give your husband a two-year exemption to Maui.'”
It first came up when Kapalua was missing popular players such as Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. Oddly enough, Els is opposed to the idea.
“Stupid,” Els said. “It’s the silliest thing ever. They’re just going to kill another golf tournament. It’s a special event the way it is. Everybody knows on tour that if you win, you get invited to Kapalua. It gives the player one hell of an incentive. To screw that up would be very silly. There’s a tradition. It’s a tournament of champions.”
DIVOTS: Ernie Els is preparing for the U.S. Open by taking his father, Nils, to play at Shinnecock Hills, Merion, Sebonac and Pine Valley. … Lake Merced in San Francisco has been selected to host the U.S. Girls Junior Championship next year. … Only 23 players earned a spot in the U.S. Open by going through local (18 holes) and sectional (36 holes) qualifying, the fewest number since 2002.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Phil Mickelson has finished ahead of Tiger Woods in the last six tournaments they have played together.
FINAL WORD: “That’s just lots of long grass away from being almost the best course I’ve ever played.” – Geoff Ogilvy on Oakmont Country Club, which held its eighth U.S. Open in 2007.