NBC and Golf Channel facing a busy summer of golf


By Doug Ferguson - AP Golf Writer



Brian Stuard waves after sinking his putt on the 18th green during a playoff round to win the rain-delayed Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Professional Golf At-A-Glance

All Times Eastern

PGA TOUR

WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP

Site: Charlotte, N.C.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Quail Hollow Club. TPC Louisiana. Yards: 7,442. Par: 72.

Purse: $7.3 million (First prize: $1.314 million).

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.), CBS Sports (Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

Defending champion: Rory McIlroy.

Last week: Brian Stuard won his first PGA Tour event in a playoff at the Zurich Classic over Jamie Lovermark and Byeong An. The tournament was reduced to 54 holes and finished on Monday because of rain.

Notes: Jim Furyk is returning to competition this week after surgery on his left wrist. Furyk withdrew on Sept. 17 during the first round of the BMW Championship and tried to let his wrist heal with rest before opting for surgery. He was No. 7 in the world ranking when he sat out and now is No. 25. … Six of the top 10 players are competing this week. … Quail Hollow will host the PGA Championship in 2017, so the Wells Fargo Championship will move for one year to Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington. … McIlroy became the first multiple winner at Quail Hollow since it returned to the PGA Tour schedule in 2003. … U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau is playing on a sponsor’s exemption. … Brian Stuard played bogey-free in his 54-hole victory in New Orleans. The last player to win going bogey-free over regulation 72 holes was Lee Trevino in 1974, which also was in New Orleans.

Next week: The Players Championship.

Online: www.pgatour.com

___

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

INSPERITY INVITATIONAL

Site: The Woodlands, Texas.

Schedule: Friday-Sunday.

Course: Woodlands CC. Yards: 7,018. Par: 72.

Purse: $2.1 million. (First prize: $315,000).

Television: Golf Channel (Friday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.).

Defending champion: Ian Woosnam.

Last tournament: Woody Austin and Michael Allen won the Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Cedar Lodge on April 24.

Notes: John Daly makes his debut on the PGA Tour Champions. He turned 50 on April 28, and claims he can — but won’t — cash it on a $150,000 bet he made with Fuzzy Zoeller that he’d never make it to 50. Daly plans a full PGA Tour Champions schedule, with exceptions to play in the Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour. … Austin now has won three times in his last four starts to move atop the Charles Schwab Cup standings. … Three of the next four tournaments on the schedule are majors. … Colin Montgomerie says he will enter Local Final Qualifying for the British Open at Royal Troon, where his father was the longtime secretary.

Next tournament: Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., on May 19-22.

Online: www.pgatour.com/champions

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LPGA TOUR

YOKOHAMA TIRE LPGA CLASSIC

Site: Prattville, Ala.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: RTJ Golf Trail, Capitol Hill (Senator Course). Yards: 6,599. Par: 72.

Purse: $1.3 million. (First prize: $195,000).

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

Defending champion: Kris Tamulis.

Last week: Jenny Shin won the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Notes: Only nine of the top 20 in the world ranking are competing this week, a low number by LPGA standards. … The tournament has moved from its late summer spot on the schedule to Mother’s Day weekend because of the Olympics. … Brooke Henderson tied for 19th in Texas, ending her streak of nine straight top 10s worldwide (eight straight on the LPGA Tour). … Shin becomes the third first-time winner on the LPGA Tour this year. … Gerina Piller went from a two-shot lead to a three-way tie for second in Texas last week, which cost her Olympic ranking points. Piller still moved up to No. 17, right behind Cristie Kerr at No. 16. Countries can only have more than two players (a maximum of four) if they are inside the top 15 in the world ranking. Stacy Lewis (4) and Lexi Thompson (5) are the top U.S. qualifiers for now.

Next tournament: Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., on May 19-22.

Online: www.lpga.com

___

EUROPEAN TOUR

HASSAN TROPHY

Site: Rabat, Morocco.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Red Course). Yards: 7,487. Par: 72.

Purse: 1.5 million euros.

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Defending champion: Richie Ramsay.

Last week: Li Haotong of China closed with a 64 for a three-shot victory in the Volvo China Open.

Notes: This is the first time the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour are staging tournaments at the same venue. The men are playing the Red Course, while the women are playing on the Blue course. … Li Haotong, the 20-year-old from Shanghai, became the second straight Chinese native to win the Volvo China Open. Wu Ashun won last year. The victory moved Li atop the Olympic ranking for China. … Javier Ballesteros, the son of Seve Ballesteros, is in the field. He has yet to make the cut in his four previous starts on the European Tour. … Also in the field is 55-year-old Barry Lane, making his first European Tour start in more than two years.

Next week: AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

Online: www.europeantour.com

___

WEB.COM TOUR

Last week: Seamus Power of Ireland won the United Leasing & Finance Championship by one shot over Cody Gribble, Jonathan Randolph and Adam Schenk.

Next week: Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C.

Online: www.pgatour.com/webcom

___

OTHER TOURS (Thursday-Sunday unless otherwise denoted)

MEN

Korea Tour/OneAsia: Caltex Maehyung Open, Nam Seoul CC, Seoul. Defending champion: Moon Kyong-jun. Online: www.oneasia.asia

Sunshine Tour (Wednesday-Saturday): Investec Royal Swazi Open, Royal Swazi Spa CC, South Africa. Defending champion: P.H. McIntyre. Online: www.sunshinetour.com

PGA Tour Latinoamerica: Honduras Open, Indura Beach and Golf Resort, Tela, Honduras. Defending champion: Felipe Velazquez. Online: www.pgatour.com/la/en

Challenge Tour: Turkish Airlines Challenge, Gloria GC, Antalya, Turkey. Defending champion: Rhys Davies. Online: www.europeantour.com/challengetour

WOMEN

Ladies European Tour: Lalla Meryem Cup, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Blue Course), Rabat, Morocco. Television: Golf Channel (Saturday-Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.). Defending champion: Gwladys Nocera. Online: www.ladieseuropeantour.com

Symetra Tour: Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, S.C. Defending champion: Alejandra Llaneza. Online: www.symetratour.com

Legends Tour (Sunday-Monday): Legends at Stoney Point, Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, S.C. Defending champion: New tournament. Online: www.thelegendstour.com

The summer schedule for NBC and Golf Channel is not finalized, though this much is clear: There won’t be another summer like this one from the number of big events to two premier tournaments that the networks have never broadcast.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a deep, talented bench,” said Mike McCarley, president of Golf for NBC Sports Group. “We’ve got a 12-week stretch of The Open Championship, the Olympics, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. It will be the busiest time we’ve ever had.”

It all gets started at Royal Troon in Scotland for the British Open, which NBC and Golf Channel acquired a year early from ESPN. Golf producer Tommy Roy and Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon began making trips to the Ayrshire Coast late last summer. Expect to see more graphics involving wind (the best defense of any links course) and a deeper sense of history of a championship that dates to 1860.

Three weeks later is golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio after a 112-year absence — the men one week, the women the next week.

Gil Capps is leading a research team, and considering countries are allowed only two players (up to four if they are in the top 15 in the world), much time already has been invested in finding out who some of them are. That includes Aditi Ashok of India, from the same town as Anirban Lahiri. The 18-year-old recently won Ladies European Tour qualifying school, the first Indian to do that on any tour. She is No. 58 in the Olympic ranking for 60 spots and still has work ahead of her.

“Her participation in the Olympics, for a lot of girls, would do wonders for the game of golf in her country,” McCarley said. “All of a sudden you’d have young people in India who have a role model. And they identify with the Olympics in a way they don’t identify in golf.”

That’s what is new for the networks. Then it gets plenty busy with three playoff events in a four-week stretch (New York, Indianapolis and Atlanta), with the Ryder Cup outside Minneapolis right after the Tour Championship (and FedEx Cup) ends.

McCarley said promotion from one audience to the next would be critical to this endless summer.

“The Olympics will bring in a broad audience,” he said. “In a lot of countries, people will be exposed to golf in a way they haven’t before.”

___

UNFORTUNATE 500: Being injured and being idle has sent Tiger Woods out of the top 500 in the world for the first time in his 20-year career as a pro.

It was only a matter of time. Woods hasn’t played since the Wyndham Championship last August and he had played poorly (and sparingly because of injuries) the year before that. He fell nine spots to No. 508 this week.

The last time he was out of the top 500 was on July 14, 1996. The next week, he tied for 22nd in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where he felt he was ready to turn pro. The 20-year-old Woods went from No. 554 to No. 431 after the ‘96 British Open, and he began a swift climb when he turned pro a month later.

He still hasn’t reached his low point in the ranking.

Woods was No. 875 on April 2, 1995, the week before he tied for 41st in his Masters debut as an amateur.

___

THE TURNAROUND: Vaughn Taylor and Brian Stuard had such limited status this year on the PGA Tour that they shuffled between the big leagues and the Web.com Tour, and then were reminded how much one week can change everything.

Taylor was No. 447 in the world when he won at Pebble Beach. Stuard was No. 513 in the world when he won New Orleans.

The Masters invitation is off the charts (Taylor lives in Augusta, Stuard has never played the Masters), and the money should be ignored (each earned $1.26 million). But perhaps the greatest perk is having a job and knowing where they can play.

“Sometimes you don’t know until the Monday or Tuesday of the tournament week if you’re going to get in,” Stuard said after his playoff victory Monday. “I didn’t play good enough last year, and that’s the price you pay, I guess. But fortunately … I don’t know, this means a lot, just for that reason alone.”

He is exempt through September 2018.

And yes, he gets in the Masters, PGA Championship, The Players Championship and several more than weren’t on the agenda a week ago.

___

HOMETOWN OPEN: Nathan Smith has played the Masters four times as the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. He has played in the Walker Cup three straight times and won the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Olympic Club with Todd White.

The 37-year-old Smith has never made it to the U.S. Open, and he would desperately like to play the next one. Smith lives in Pittsburgh, and the U.S. Open returns to Oakmont on June 16-19.

It hasn’t been a lack of effort, with one story he told last week about the time he tried to qualify in 2007, the last time the U.S. Open was at Oakmont. He was an alternate out of local qualifying and received a call on Friday that there was a spot for him in the 36-hole sectional qualifying on Monday.

Smith was ready to play. But there was one catch. The sectional available was in England.

“I thought about it for a second and being that it was here, I just said the heck with it,” Smith said.

He flew overnight with his father on Saturday. Smith walked one course at Sunningdale and his father walked the other.

“We put our heads together. You probably know how that turned out — not great,” Smith said. “We were a little jet-lagged, but it was a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of close calls, but who knows, maybe this is the year.”

Among his Walker Cup teammates are Rickie Fowler (2009), Jordan Spieth (2011) and Justin Thomas (2013).

“I think a few of those guys have a great chance maybe Sunday night of lifting the trophy here at Oakmont,” Smith said Monday. “We’ll see what happens with that. But some of them were texting me and asking about the course. They better bring their putter.”

___

DIVOTS: The USGA accepted 9,877 entries for the U.S. Open, the third-highest in history. The record is 10,127 entries to the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, followed by 9,882 entries for Chambers Bay last year. The U.S. Open is June 16-19 at Oakmont. … Jack Nicklaus didn’t play when technology measure swing speed, ball speed, smash factor or launch angle. Nicklaus said he was 58 when he was out at a test center in California that measure his swing speed at 118 mph. “They said only one other senior player did that, and it was Jim Dent at 118 mph,” Nicklaus said. … Tommy Bolt and Nancy Lopez are among those who will be inducted into the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame for 2016. The ceremony is Sept. 18 at Southern Hills, where Bolt won the U.S. Open in 1958. Lopez played college golf at Tulsa.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Brian Stuard was 20-for-20 in getting up-and-down when he missed the green at New Orleans.

___

FINAL WORD: “I’m just trying to get better each and every week. That’s how I have to deal with being the best player in the world right now.” — Jason Day.

Brian Stuard waves after sinking his putt on the 18th green during a playoff round to win the rain-delayed Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_110119278-037d0cee339e40ada8e9ad1f7d870c3a.jpgBrian Stuard waves after sinking his putt on the 18th green during a playoff round to win the rain-delayed Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

Professional Golf At-A-Glance

All Times Eastern

PGA TOUR

WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP

Site: Charlotte, N.C.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Quail Hollow Club. TPC Louisiana. Yards: 7,442. Par: 72.

Purse: $7.3 million (First prize: $1.314 million).

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.), CBS Sports (Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

Defending champion: Rory McIlroy.

Last week: Brian Stuard won his first PGA Tour event in a playoff at the Zurich Classic over Jamie Lovermark and Byeong An. The tournament was reduced to 54 holes and finished on Monday because of rain.

Notes: Jim Furyk is returning to competition this week after surgery on his left wrist. Furyk withdrew on Sept. 17 during the first round of the BMW Championship and tried to let his wrist heal with rest before opting for surgery. He was No. 7 in the world ranking when he sat out and now is No. 25. … Six of the top 10 players are competing this week. … Quail Hollow will host the PGA Championship in 2017, so the Wells Fargo Championship will move for one year to Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington. … McIlroy became the first multiple winner at Quail Hollow since it returned to the PGA Tour schedule in 2003. … U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau is playing on a sponsor’s exemption. … Brian Stuard played bogey-free in his 54-hole victory in New Orleans. The last player to win going bogey-free over regulation 72 holes was Lee Trevino in 1974, which also was in New Orleans.

Next week: The Players Championship.

Online: www.pgatour.com

___

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

INSPERITY INVITATIONAL

Site: The Woodlands, Texas.

Schedule: Friday-Sunday.

Course: Woodlands CC. Yards: 7,018. Par: 72.

Purse: $2.1 million. (First prize: $315,000).

Television: Golf Channel (Friday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.).

Defending champion: Ian Woosnam.

Last tournament: Woody Austin and Michael Allen won the Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Cedar Lodge on April 24.

Notes: John Daly makes his debut on the PGA Tour Champions. He turned 50 on April 28, and claims he can — but won’t — cash it on a $150,000 bet he made with Fuzzy Zoeller that he’d never make it to 50. Daly plans a full PGA Tour Champions schedule, with exceptions to play in the Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour. … Austin now has won three times in his last four starts to move atop the Charles Schwab Cup standings. … Three of the next four tournaments on the schedule are majors. … Colin Montgomerie says he will enter Local Final Qualifying for the British Open at Royal Troon, where his father was the longtime secretary.

Next tournament: Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., on May 19-22.

Online: www.pgatour.com/champions

___

LPGA TOUR

YOKOHAMA TIRE LPGA CLASSIC

Site: Prattville, Ala.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: RTJ Golf Trail, Capitol Hill (Senator Course). Yards: 6,599. Par: 72.

Purse: $1.3 million. (First prize: $195,000).

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

Defending champion: Kris Tamulis.

Last week: Jenny Shin won the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Notes: Only nine of the top 20 in the world ranking are competing this week, a low number by LPGA standards. … The tournament has moved from its late summer spot on the schedule to Mother’s Day weekend because of the Olympics. … Brooke Henderson tied for 19th in Texas, ending her streak of nine straight top 10s worldwide (eight straight on the LPGA Tour). … Shin becomes the third first-time winner on the LPGA Tour this year. … Gerina Piller went from a two-shot lead to a three-way tie for second in Texas last week, which cost her Olympic ranking points. Piller still moved up to No. 17, right behind Cristie Kerr at No. 16. Countries can only have more than two players (a maximum of four) if they are inside the top 15 in the world ranking. Stacy Lewis (4) and Lexi Thompson (5) are the top U.S. qualifiers for now.

Next tournament: Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., on May 19-22.

Online: www.lpga.com

___

EUROPEAN TOUR

HASSAN TROPHY

Site: Rabat, Morocco.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Red Course). Yards: 7,487. Par: 72.

Purse: 1.5 million euros.

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Defending champion: Richie Ramsay.

Last week: Li Haotong of China closed with a 64 for a three-shot victory in the Volvo China Open.

Notes: This is the first time the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour are staging tournaments at the same venue. The men are playing the Red Course, while the women are playing on the Blue course. … Li Haotong, the 20-year-old from Shanghai, became the second straight Chinese native to win the Volvo China Open. Wu Ashun won last year. The victory moved Li atop the Olympic ranking for China. … Javier Ballesteros, the son of Seve Ballesteros, is in the field. He has yet to make the cut in his four previous starts on the European Tour. … Also in the field is 55-year-old Barry Lane, making his first European Tour start in more than two years.

Next week: AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

Online: www.europeantour.com

___

WEB.COM TOUR

Last week: Seamus Power of Ireland won the United Leasing & Finance Championship by one shot over Cody Gribble, Jonathan Randolph and Adam Schenk.

Next week: Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C.

Online: www.pgatour.com/webcom

___

OTHER TOURS (Thursday-Sunday unless otherwise denoted)

MEN

Korea Tour/OneAsia: Caltex Maehyung Open, Nam Seoul CC, Seoul. Defending champion: Moon Kyong-jun. Online: www.oneasia.asia

Sunshine Tour (Wednesday-Saturday): Investec Royal Swazi Open, Royal Swazi Spa CC, South Africa. Defending champion: P.H. McIntyre. Online: www.sunshinetour.com

PGA Tour Latinoamerica: Honduras Open, Indura Beach and Golf Resort, Tela, Honduras. Defending champion: Felipe Velazquez. Online: www.pgatour.com/la/en

Challenge Tour: Turkish Airlines Challenge, Gloria GC, Antalya, Turkey. Defending champion: Rhys Davies. Online: www.europeantour.com/challengetour

WOMEN

Ladies European Tour: Lalla Meryem Cup, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Blue Course), Rabat, Morocco. Television: Golf Channel (Saturday-Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.). Defending champion: Gwladys Nocera. Online: www.ladieseuropeantour.com

Symetra Tour: Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, S.C. Defending champion: Alejandra Llaneza. Online: www.symetratour.com

Legends Tour (Sunday-Monday): Legends at Stoney Point, Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, S.C. Defending champion: New tournament. Online: www.thelegendstour.com

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