Are golfers finally improving and if so, why?

Back in the mid 90’s, I read an article that said golfers were not getting better despite the advances in equipment design, instruction and course condition.  Well, that data has either been wrong all along or has changed dramatically over the last 25 years.  Recent studies answer the age old questions “Are golfers finally improving?” Thanks to  of Golf Digest for providing this significant insight!
Golfers are better than they were 25 years ago. It’s not just theory, it’s fact. Forgetting for a moment who among you is sandbagging and who’s toting around a vanity handicap, the data on handicaps from the U.S. Golf Association makes one thing clear: Golfers not only are getting better, they may be getting better at their sport than any other group of athletes are getting at theirs. This bold statement isn’t originally mine. I was having an email exchange with former USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge, when listening to the recent Hot List podcast. When there was a suggestion that golfers really haven’t improved despite all the advances in technology, Rugge, who often talked about the subject of handicap trends during his tenure at the USGA, told me about some handicap data that suggested just the opposite. A quick call to the USGA confirmed that very fact. In the last 25 years, the average USGA handicap for a man has improved nearly two full strokes, from 16.3 to 14.4. For women, the improvement is no less impressive, dropping from 29.7 in 1991 to 26.1 in 2016.
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Pictures: Golf Digest   Chun Xia

Countdown of the Top 18 Moments of 2016!

As 2016 comes to an end, it is time to reflect on what has transpired and moved the needle during the past year.  Thanks to E. Michael Johnson and  Dave Shedloski, all of Golf Digest, as we present the Top 18 Moments of 2016!  From the very first tournament of the 2015/2016 PGA nd LPGA Tour seasons, there has been drama and superb golf, despite the fact that golf’s greatest player, Tiger Woods, did not tee it up at all!  Sit back and enjoy these incredible stories!
As is the annual tradition of Golf World, our staff took stock of the 2016 golf season by counting down the top newsmakers. Our list includes an eclectic mix of high-profile tour pros, wily veterans, young up-and-comers who already have grabbed the spotlight, touchstone moments of joy and sorrow, and more. And so we begin out countdown with …

18. BARRY GIBBONS

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17. #SB2K16

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16. NIKE OUT OF CLUB BUSINESS

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15. TIGER WOODS

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If you want to read the rest of the Top 18 Golf Moments of 2016, go here! Source:    Golf Digest  E. Michael Johnson  Dave Shedloski Pictures: Alex Myers  Courtesy of Rickie Fowler  Getty Images   Stan Badz/PGA TOUR

Happy Thanksgiving! 28 things golfers need to be thankful for.

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone! As we all give thanks for friends, family and this wonderful country we live in, warts and all, let’s ponder what what we are really thankful for in golf.  Thanks to  and the hard working people at Golf Digest, for their suggestions on the 28 things we golfers need to be grateful for!

We’ve become an ungrateful bunch. Instead of cherishing the good, we belabor the bad. We complain about the Wi-Fi stalling out, oblivious to the miracle of the Internet. Talk crap about our jobs without referencing its steady income. Traffic, sports, politics: moan, moan, moan. And God only knows the struggle of sitting on an airport runway.

Which is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It’s a respite from groaning, where gratitude takes center stage. That attitude applies to golf, for I’ve been guilty of bellyaching just as much as anyone.

In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, here are the things I’m most thankful for from the world of golf:

  1. Gimme Putts

And we’re guessing Alison Lee does, too.

2. Online tee-time reservation sites

For those too poor to afford a country club (me) and/or procrastinate in making a tee time earlier in the week (me, again), these websites are a gift from the golf gods. It can be a roll of the dice; in many ways, it’s like TJ Maxx: If you’re trying to find a specific, particular item, you may be disappointed, but if casually browsing, you’ll likely find something that fits your fancy. As long as you don’t mind the spontaneity of the process, booking a time online should be right up your alley.

And no, this wasn’t a paid, sponsored content endorsement.

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3. Masters week

Where to begin? It’s the best golf course in the world, and the same sentiment can be applied to its condition. Forget sporting events; it’s the most efficiently run event in this country PERIOD. Every element of Augusta is draped in tradition; the Par 3 Contest has more history than most tournaments. The small field all but guarantees a big-name winner, and the course layout ensures an exciting finish.

In short: If there is a heaven, then the Pearly Gates are located at 2604 Washington Road.

4. Breakfast balls

How to know your friend’s a keeper: He/she motions for a reload after your first shot of the day finds the parking lot. As Euripides said, “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”

5. Weekday outings

The snow days of adulthood. Bonus points if they reside on a Friday.

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6. Night Golf

If you’ve only swung a club in sunlight, you’re missing out.

Amateurs competing in majors

While Jordan Spieth was the main storyline at St. Andrews, the competitive showings of Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge were right up there in narrative excitement. Granted, these guys are professionals-in-training, yet there’s undoubtedly a romanticized feeling when an “(A)” name designation appears on the scoreboard.

It even inspires the ephemeral hope that you, too, watching at home, can compete with the big boys. All you need is a little practice around the greens, more mental focus, a better diet and stretching regimen, and — BOOM — you’d be walking up the 18th fairway as Jim Nantz pontificates a Nantzism on your historic victory (which, in my case, would be along the lines of, “An Un-BEALL-ievable moment!!!).

Then you remember you couldn’t break par at the member-guest and think, “Na.”

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7. 16th hole at Phoenix

The antithesis of golf etiquette, decorum and civility…and, remarkably, it’s universally beloved by everyone in the game.

8. Cart girls

Admittedly, I always resented this profession growing up, due to making minimum wage on maintenance duty while those manning carts would pull in $35 per hour off tips. But this summer, most of my golf was played at a course without coolers, and on the days I forgot to pack my own water bottle — which was often — seeing the silhouette of the snack truck approaching from the distance turned me into Andy Dufresne after his Shawshank escape.

9. eBay

Be it equipment, books, programs, clothes, tickets, even vacations, eBay is the Elysium of golf memorabilia. If you’re ready to go down this rabbit hole, Matt Rudy’s work is a weekly source for these finds.

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10. John Daly

The big guy gave us a scare this summer, collapsing at an event in Mississippi. From his outlandish ensembles to his penchant for belting out “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the game is always a bit more colorful when Daly’s around. Moreover, there’s something to be said for a person who can energize a gallery with his mere appearance, and in terms of treating fans, Daly has no peer on the PGA Tour.

Here’s hoping for a clean bill of health for JD for 2017.

11. Club Pro Guy Twitter account

Crass, irreverent, offensive, demeaning. Our kind of guy.

12. Televised golf at bizarre hours

The British Open is the annual model for its early-morning showcase on the East Coast, but 2015 gave us a prime-time U.S. Open and a deep-into-the-night Presidents Cup broadcast. Even the British Open got into the act — albeit briefly — with its 1:30 a.m. EST Saturday-morning start.

13. Scrambles

There is nothing better for a golfer’s confidence than a scramble . It’s easy to dismiss awful shots (“Well, clearly I was just being overly aggressive because of the format, you guys”), putting transforms from the bane of your existence to a shared struggle and every decent knock is treated like MacArthur returning to the Philippines.

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Harry How/Getty Images

14. Dash Day

Fact: Golf viewership among females audiences has soared 784 percent, strictly at the prospect of seeing Lil’ Day running across the 18th green. Even Keely Levins, who makes the Grinch look amicable, lights up like a Christmas tree at Dash sightings.

To see the other 14 reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving day, go here!

Source : Golf Digest   

Pictures : Harry How/Getty Images  Golf Digest

Is “The Curse” in sports a ligitimate entity?

Every sports team and player have had to endure “The Curse” at some time or another.  The Boston Red Socks come to mind with the “Babe Ruth Curse” and of course the ever lovable Chicago Cubs, who finally broke the curse in 2016.  Another drought ended in Chicago just a couple of weeks later when the Irish Rugby team who beat the New Zealand All Blacks for the first time EVER.  109 years to be exact!   So is “the curse” a legitimate thing and who imposes the curse?   of Golf Digest gives us the top 11 players on the PGA and LPGA Tours who have still to beat their particular curse.  

With the Chicago Cubs finally winning their first World Series title in 108 years, a look at some of the most dramatic droughts in golf history.

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1. Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open

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2. Sam Snead at the U.S. Open

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3. Nancy Lopez at the U.S. Women’s Open

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4. The Calendar Grand Slam

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5.Greg Norman at the Masters

To see the rest of golf’s top curses, go here!
Source :    Golf Digest

Naming the greatest achievements in the history of golf!

As  T.J. Auclair of PGA.com mentions in his opening statement,  this was an impossible task.  Whatever he chooses and in what order will always bring the critics.  “You left out so and so”  “So and so should have been ahead of so and so.”  But he did it, and in my humble opinion did  a great job.  As a golf professional for over 50 years, I found this article on golf’s greatest achievements a compelling read.  Thanks!
I’ve been tasked with the impossible: Ranking golf’s 9 greatest achievements, in order. How do you even do that? Who is this schmuck to decide which is better than the other when just about any one of us would dine on a haggis-only diet every day for the rest of our lives to have accomplished just one of them? With the realization that ranking these achievements in an order all of us could agree on, is nearly as difficult as reaching just one of the feats that follow. As I run to take cover, here goes nothing…
Jum Furyk.

Jum Furyk’s 58 is the lowest number ever posted in a PGA Tur event!

9. Jim Furyk’s 12-under 58. OK. If I’m being honest, it felt dirty putting the number “9” in front of this entry. One, because Furyk is the only player in PGA Tour history to accomplish such a feat. Two, before shooting that number this past Sunday at TPC River Highlands (a par 70) in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship, he was the last player on Tour to shoot a 59. He did that on On September 13, 2013, at Conway Farms (12 under since the course was a par 71) in the second round of the BMW Championship. So why is this just No. 9 even though it’s something that had never happened before on the PGA Tour? I guess the only logical explanation is because it’s so new.
Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus finished second 19 times.  Imagine turning these into wins. This would have been 37 Major Championships!  Wow!

8. Jack Nicklaus’ 19 runner-up finishes in the majors. Some may argue that this isn’t necessarily an “achievement” since it didn’t result in victory. I’d argue that there’s an exception to every rule and this is one of them because of the man we’re talking about. Nicklaus — the winningest major champion of all time (more on that later) — also has more runner-up finishes than any player in the game’s history. That’s almost unfathomable. As ridiculous as this sounds — and no less than 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III pointed out recently — Nicklaus could be considered the most snake-bitten golfer of all time based on that stat. The next-most runner-up finishes in majors? That would be 11 by Phil Mickelson. Back to Nicklaus — 18 major championship wins and 19 times a runner up. Think about that.
Sam Snead

Sam Snead was the sweetest swinger the game has ever seen!

7. Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories. That’s just astounding. Only two other players in the game’s history have more than 70 PGA Tour wins (Jack Nicklaus, 73; Tiger Woods, 79). Here are some other incredible Snead fun facts: – Oldest to win a PGA Tour event, the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days. – By winning the 1960 De Soto Open Invitational, Snead became the first player to win PGA Tour titles in four different decades (since matched by Raymond Floyd). – Oldest player to make the cut at a major: age 67 years, 2 months, 7 days at the 1979 PGA Championship. – First PGA Tour player to shoot his age with a 67 in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open. – Oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour: age 67 years, 2 months, 21 days at the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic. – Only player to post a top-10 finish in at least one major championship in five different decades.    
"Chronocyclograph of golf champion- Francis Ouimet ."

“Chronocyclograph of golf champion- Francis Ouimet .”

6. Francis Ouimet wins the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. This wasn’t just an amazing singular accomplishment. It was also the reason for a golf boom in the United States. When Ouimet won the national championship as a 20-year-old amateur (on his home course, no less), he became the “father of amateur golf” in the United States by taking down the likes of famous, accomplished professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. When you think of American golf legends, you think of names like Jones, Nelson, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods. Keep in mind, Ouimet was the first “hero” in American golf.
To see the rest of golf’s most amazing achievements in history, go here! Source :  T.J. Auclair  PGA.com Pictures : USA Today Sports Images   Keith Allison   Ed Balaun (supergolfdude)   Secret in the Dirt   Kheel Center

How Augusta National Almost hosted Olympic Golf in 1996!

Here is a very interesting story of how August National almost hosted Golf for the 1996 Olympic Games.  But even the might of Payne Stewart and Billy Payne could not overcome one woman’s objection.  Find out what that was.  Thanks to   of Golf Digest for this breaking story!

If you’ve been at all following golf’s inclusion in the Rio Olympics, you likely know that the sport has returned after a 112-year absence. What you might not know, however, is how golf almost returned two decades ago. Or that the potential course was not some hastily constructed new layout, but the most celebrated venue in golf.

A brief refresher: After succeeding in bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta, Billy Payne, then the head of the Atlanta Games organizing committee, turned his attention to making golf an Olympic sport. Better yet, he got then Augusta National chairman Jackson Stephens (at this point, Payne, now Augusta National’s chairman, was not even a club member) to agree that Augusta National should be the host venue. Payne’s promise of delivering both the best players in the world and the storied venue was enough to persuade International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch to get on board with the idea as well.

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In October 1992, Payne and Stephens held an outdoor announcement at Augusta National, where, according to a follow-up story in Golf Digest, “guests were given trinkets adorned with the familiar Augusta National logo, but featuring the five Olympic rings inside the Augusta flag.”

To find out why Augusta was not chosen to host the Olympic golf in 1996, go here!

Source :    Golf Digest

Pictures : Getty Images

Entertaining stories about Phil “The Thrill” Mickelson.

Phil Mickelson loves to gamble.  You just have to watch him play to know that!  So it comes as no surprise that he likes to gamble at golf, table tennis or even trick shots on the golf course.  Read the entire article by  of Golf Digest to learn about the amazing shot Phil “The Thrill” Mickelson played to collect all the cash!
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We’ve heard some great golf gambling stories involving Phil Mickelson through the years. There’s the time he schooled Paul Azinger. The time he tricked Nick Watney into paying off a wager in pounds instead of dollars. Even the time he bet a fan (and lost) he could get up and down from a particularly bad lie.

But this one, courtesy of Golf Magazine’s terrific oral history of “Tin Cup,”takes the cake. It occurred during the filming of the movie, which turns 20 August 16. Here’s Cheech Marin, who played Kevin Costner’s caddie in the classic golf flick, describing what happened:

To see what really happened on this amazing bet, go here!

Source :    Golf Digest

Pictures : Golf Digest  Corn Farmer

Are Republicans and Democrats as split on the golf course?

It seems to me that if the Republicans come up with a good idea, the Democrats will immeditely respond with negative critisism.  The same is true for the Republicans when the Democrats come up with something special.  But what about the average golfer who is either a Republican or a Democrate?  Is their thinking and behavior on the course different from one another?   of Golf Digest brings us an interesting study on the subject done by Chadly Stern, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  An interesting read!

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We like to think of the golf course as a safe haven from political bickering. Sure, you might touch on the economy during a wait on the tee box, but golf itself is politically agnostic. Your weekend foursome could include people with completely different ideologies than your own and it should have no bearing on how you enjoy the game together.

Sounds great. But is that really true?

To understand how one’s political views might shape them as golfers, we conducted a survey of more than 1,000 regular players asking about a variety of topics relevant in the game — whether they walk or ride, whether they play golf for money, that sort of thing. We only asked one directly political question — whether the respondent was a Democrat or a Republican — but from that, were able to see contrasts in how members of the opposing parties answered the other questions.

“AMONG CONSERVATIVES THERE’S A TENDENCY TO GRAVITATE TOWARD NORMS AND RULES, BECAUSE RULES PRESENT STRUCTURE,” STERN SAID. “ONE OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT IS THAT TRUMP SAYS AMERICA IS IN CHAOS AND THERE’S A LOT OF VIOLENCE AND INSTABILITY AND HE’S GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AND SAFE AGAIN THROUGH THE ENFORCEMENT OF RULES.”

Related: See the complete survey results here

In fact, what the survey underscored is how often one’s political leanings can be manifested in a golf setting (we’re not talking about whether you’re chronic miss is to the left or the right). And when you map the survey answers against generally acknowledged differences between the two parties, the results start to follow a trend.

“It’s a super interesting set of findings,” said Chadly Stern, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has studied and written about how one’s political ideology shapes the way they see the world. “It’s very consistent with what we know about the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans.”


We should start with an important reminder — that this was a survey of mostly avid golfers, a relatively homogenous group compared to, say, people who like music. And on some topics golfers were aligned regardless of how they voted. But most interesting is where the two parties diverge. For instance, Professor Stern was intrigued by Republicans being more inclined to follow the Rules of Golf to the letter. In his eyes, it was reflective of a conservative inclination toward structure. Taking it a step further, he could even explain why people who follow golf rules more closely would also be drawn to the candidacy of Donald Trump.

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“Among conservatives there’s a tendency to gravitate toward norms and rules, because rules present structure,” Stern said. “One of the things that people have been talking about is that Trump says America is in chaos and there’s a lot of violence and instability and he’s going to make America great and safe again through the enforcement of rules.”

A conservative partiality toward following rules and norms also explains other contrasts. Democrats had less of a problem with golfers smoking marijuana on the golf course, and while mostly opposed to golfers wearing jeans on the golf course, they were more open than their counterparts across the aisle. The gap was even wider on whether denim should be permissible in a golf clubhouse.

To see the rest of the similarities and differences of Republicans and Democrats on the golf course, go here!

Source :    Golf Digest

Pictures : Golf Digest  U.S. Embassy, Jakarta

Things you may not know about Henrik “The Ice Man” Stenson.

His nickname is not “The Ice Man” for nothing!  On Sunday afternoon he lived up to that reputation as he methodically took Royal Troon apart and finally brought the course to its knees! After a sly smile at Phil Mickelson early in the round as Phil almost holed out  from off the green, he was all business and knew he had a hard task ahead.  He became a golfing machine, and put on a display of ball striking never before seen in a Major Championship!  Thanks to  of Golf Digest for bringing us information on Henrik we otherwise would not have known!

1. His Sunday round at Troon tied major championship records

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3. His wife, Emma, was a college golfer

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4. He didn’t start playing golf until age 12

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5. He will represent Sweden in the 2016 Olympics

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Source :    Golf Digest
Pictures :  Golf Digest

Is golf the only sport with a high attrition rate for the Rio Olympics?

As golf fans we read all we can on golf.  So we know exactly who is going to Rio and who has pulled out.  But what about all the other top sports that make up the Olympic movement?  How are they faring as far as withdrawls are concerned?   of Golf Digest has done the research, and the answers might just surprise you.  
 
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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MARCH 08: Rafael Becker of Brazil hits the ball during the Golf Tournament – Aquece Rio Test Event for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Olympic Golf Course on March 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Golf’s Olympic revival is five weeks away, but the sport’s return is off to an inauspicious start. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott have all decided to bypass the Brazil competition, with fellow stars Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett also waffling on attending. And that’s not counting the wave of second-tiered players who are bypassing the Rio de Janeiro Games, a list that’s likely to grow by the time you finish reading this sentence.

For most, Brazil’s perilous health considerations — most notably, the Zika epidemic — were cited as cause for recantation.

“Zika virus, it was a very difficult decision to make, obviously from representing your country, but also having to put family first and make sure that’s a priority over anything else, more so than golf and the Olympics,” Day said on Tuesday at Firestone Country Club. “I just can’t put my family through that, especially with the future children we’re looking at having.”

It’s far from the region’s only issue, as Rio’s rampant water-sewage problems, transportation nightmares, corrupt local and federal government, crumbling economy and rising violence are very real threats to a safe and stable Olympic environment.

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Yet, there are growing rumblings that male golfers — to this point, just one LPGA player, South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace, has pulled out of the August tournament — are the only athletes from almost any sport skipping the Summer Olympics. Is that merely perception, or a startling truth?

To find out, we analyzed the commitments of athletes from other Olympic realms. Because of the different sports, there’s not a universal barometer or control; how we rank the best soccer or basketball players is not as data driven as tennis or boxing. What also constitutes as a sport’s “best” could be debated; a top-15 ranking in golf doesn’t mean the same as a top-15 standing in tennis.

Moreover, the study also deserves a major preface, for, in many sports, the Olympics is the zenith of their athletic endeavor. Can you imagine if the Masters was held just once every four years? Through this prism, it’s understandable why swimmers, runners and wrestlers are likely more willing to deal with the risk. To golfers, a gold medal doesn’t gain an automatic spot on the wish list. That said, basketball, tennis and soccer can make similar claims.

Keeping that caveat in mind, here are the athlete dropout rates of major Olympic sports:

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Golf

As of this writing, five of the world’s top 14 men’s players won’t be in Brazil. The educated guess, especially given Spieth’s comments at Firestone on Tuesday, says more golfers will say no to Rio. But for the sake of argument, we won’t assume.

Nevertheless, we are keeping the scope of “best” at 15 players. It may seem arbitrary, yet seven of the next eight players in the world rankings are American, and we can’t count their participation, as it’s theoretical since a maximum of four U.S. players — currently Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Fowler — can qualify, all who sit in the top 14. The 15th player is Hideki Matsuyama, who sits 16th in World rankings and 10th in Olympic rankings.

By that context, a third of golf’s elite are missing Brazil. Again, that number could increase in the upcoming days, but this at least gives us a starting benchmark.

To see exactly where golf stands in the attrition rate of athletes dropping out of the Rio Olympics, go here!

Source :    Golf Digest

Pictures : Getty Images