PGA pros pre­pare for capy­baras

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

USA’s mega-rich golfers are en­joy­ing meet­ing other ath­letes at the Rio Olympics, but they hope not to hang on the course with the world’s largest ro­dents or croc­o­dile-like caimans. Bubba Wat­son, Rickie Fowler, Pa­trick Reed and Matt Kuchar are bed­ding into life at the Olympic Vil­lage ahead of today’s re­turn of Olympic golf af­ter a 112-year ab­sence.

“See­ing what it means to some of the other ath­letes, this is a special op­por­tu­nity for sure,” Fowler said. “I had a warm wel­come from other ath­letes and they were thank­ing me for be­ing here. They ap­pre­ci­ated me big time. They are glad we de­cided to come.”

That’s partly be­cause the world’s four top play­ers – Aus­tralian Ja­son Day, Amer­i­cans Dustin John­son and Jor­dan Spi­eth and Rory McIl­roy of North­ern Ire­land – and many oth­ers de­cided to skip Rio, most cit­ing fears of pos­si­ble fu­ture birth de­fects linked to the mos­quito-borne ill­ness Zika.

“There will cer­tainly be guys re­gret­ting not show­ing up,” Kuchar said. “I know there were con­cerns. A lot of things get blown out of pro­por­tion.”

“I’m prob­a­bly asked the most about Jor­dan and Rory,” Fowler said. “I told them I tried to get Jor­dan down here as much as pos­si­ble.”

A 60-man field for the 72-hole stroke-play event will find wildlife in abun­dance on the course with caimans and chunky ro­dents capy­baras on the scene.

“Hope­fully we don’t have any en­coun­ters,” Fowler said. “Capy­bara, it’s a de­cent-sized an­i­mal. I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with it, that’s for sure. And the caimans, I’m go­ing to keep away from them.”

The US four­some, al­lowed to ex­ceed the usual max­i­mum of two per na­tion be­cause all were ranked in the top 15 on se­lec­tion day, are half of the top-20 golfers in Rio.

Open cham­pi­onship win­ner Hen­rik Sten­son, Span­ish num­ber 11 Ser­gio Gar­cia, and Bri­tish ma­jor win­ners Danny Wil­lett and Justin Rose are the oth­ers.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy to win this thing,” Fowler said. “We’re go­ing to have to play well. But we’re the only coun­try that has a chance at a podium sweep so that’s kind of cool.”

The prom­ise of sil­ver and bronze medals could im­pact shot se­lec­tion late on Sun­day more than it might at a reg­u­lar event when near-miss win­ners mat­ter less.

“If I’m third, I’m go­ing to make sure I don’t go back to fourth real quick,” said two-time Mas­ters cham­pion Wat­son.

Kuchar says he is sure the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee will keep golf beyond 2020 when it re­con­sid­ers Games events next year.

“I imag­ine golf is go­ing to be a big suc­cess and it’s go­ing to be an easy one to keep in the ro­ta­tion of sports,” Kuchar said. “[Odd] cir­cum­stances led to guys not par­tic­i­pat­ing, but I think the event is go­ing to go off great.”

“Michael Phelps, the great­est Olympian of all time, is a golf junkie. That speaks vol­umes for our sport for that guy to love it like he does.”

US golfers watched US swim­mer Phelps, the all-time Olympic medal king, on Au­gust 9 and plan to catch Usain Bolt in the men’s 100m fi­nal just hours af­ter their last round.

“It’s in­spir­ing,” Fowler said of Olympic spec­tat­ing. “You get chills watch­ing them when they do well.”

Photo: AFP

The capy­bara – which can grow up to 150 pounds and stands more than 2 feet tall – is one of many strange sights that will greet golfers as they be­gin play today. As the world’s largest ro­dent, it is sure to make an im­pact.

Photo: AFP

A Rio 2016 pin flag flaps in the wind.

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