Dustin Johnson wants to add to the recent run of trophies earned by Coastal Carolina teams and alumni by bringing a gold medal home from the Summer Olympic Games next month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Johnson is not among the game’s top players who have withdrawn from Olympic consideration, and reaffirmed last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational his intentions to participate in the games.
Johnson was among the four prospective members of the men’s U.S. Olympic golf team who met last week with representatives of USA Golf and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“At this point I’m going to go to the Olympics and represent my country, and I’m looking forward to it,” Johnson said. “I thought the meeting was good. It cleared up a lot of things. We’re still waiting to hear back on a couple things that all four of us had a concern about, but we’ll have some answers early [this] week.”
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While the Zika virus, water quality issues and security are all concerns in Rio, Johnson said during a press conference that security was the main topic of conversation, and the Zika virus was talked about “very briefly.”
“I think they’ve got it covered pretty well,” said Johnson, who played at CCU from 2003-07.
Both the men’s and women’s golf events will have 60 players competing in a 72-hole stroke play competition for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
The International Golf Federation created an Olympic Golf Ranking and all players within the top 15 of the rankings next Monday will be eligible, though no more than four players can come from any one country.
The rest of the field will be determined by the world golf rankings, with a maximum of two players per country for countries that don’t have more than two players in the top 15.
Johnson was joined in the meeting by Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who are all in the top 15 in the IGF Olympic rankings. Watson has vowed to play for the U.S. in Rio, while world No. 3 Spieth is still analyzing the situation.
A dozen men and Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Olympics, most citing Zika as their primary concern and a few citing scheduling and family commitments.
Many of the world’s top players are passing on the Olympics including Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry of Ireland, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace of South Africa, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman of Australia, Tim Wilkinson of New Zealand, Vijay Singh of Fiji and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
Golf is included in the Olympics for the first time since 1904, and an International Olympic Committee vote next year will determine if it is extended beyond the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
Behind-the-scenes efforts by some of the leaders of golf organizations around the world to get golf an invitation to sports’ grandest stage may be squandered by the rash of withdrawals.
One IOC member has already voiced his displeasure with many of the game’s top players opting out.
“I think it is appalling,” Barry Maister said on a New Zealand radio show. “I don’t like it and I don’t think the sport should be allowed to continue in the Games under that scenario. … Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second or third rate players, is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic Movement. Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there.”
The Olympic golf competition begins Aug. 11 for men and Aug. 17 for women.
Johnson has displaced Spieth at No. 2 in the world, and now leads the PGA Tour in 2016 FedExCup points.
Johnson won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday to join Geoff Ogilvy with three World Golf Championships titles, second only to Tiger Woods’ 18 WGC titles. No player has won all four WGC events, and Johnson and Woods are the only players to win three different WGC events.
Johnson now has 10 top-10 finishes this season, which leads the PGA Tour and is one shy of his most top 10s in a season – 11 in 2014-15. He has finished in the top five in eight of his last 11 events.
Over the past two years, the Big 3 and Big 4 have been identified in golf, the Big 3 being Spieth, Day and McIlroy, and Fowler entering the picture in the Big 4. Behind only Day in the world rankings, is Johnson now one of the power players in golf?
“I think I’ve proved myself over the past three years that I’m definitely a contender, and obviously once I finally got that major victory, I definitely think it puts me into the conversation,” Johnson said.
He has now won his past two tournaments after earning his first major championship in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, after which he received texts and messages of congratulations from peers and celebrities.
“There was a bunch of them that were really nice,” Johnson said. “A lot of them from my peers out here, and just from friends that I’ve made over the past few years in all different sports, different professions. But yeah, all the texts were great.”
He’s thankful he doesn’t have to speak about his failures in majors anymore. “For sure. I mean, I’ve been up here a lot talking about what happened and why I didn’t win, and so it was definitely nice to win one and get to talk about it,” he said.
With his first major title in 29 career majors, there could be more to come. “The first one is definitely the hardest. Well, it was for me,” Johnson said. “So I feel like now that I’ve won one, I know I can do it. I believe I can do it. I mean, I’ve believed all along that I could do it, and I kept telling you all, it’s going to happen if I keep putting myself into position.
“… I believed that I had it, but there’s always that thing in the back of your head telling you, do you really have what it takes. But now I know. Now that I know that, I’ve just got to keep putting myself in position to have a chance to win on the back nine on Sundays. I mean, yeah, I think it’s the beginning.”
He’s now focused on picking up a second major next week in the British Open at Royal Troon.
“It’s just another opportunity to get another one now,” Johnson said. “I know I can win. British Open is one that I enjoy playing. I’ve played really well there in the past. … I’m excited and looking forward to going over to the British with the golf game in good form.”
PGA Tour idle
The PGA Tour has a rare mid-season week off this week because the Greenbrier Classic at Greenbrier Resort near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., was canceled because of devastating flooding in the state that resulted in several deaths.
It’s just the third time in the past 20 years that the PGA Tour has had to cancel an event because of weather conditions. It canceled the 2009 Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., and 1996 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.
The cancellation ruins a tremendous offer by tournament organizers, who were giving away all tournament grounds badges and had already received more than 30,000 requests for the week. Greenbrier owner and CEO Jim Justice is taking part in a press conference at the resort Tuesday morning to discuss the impact of the flooding on the resort and region, and he’ll make a “major announcement.”
Tour releases schedule
Next year’s PGA Tour schedule has been released, so the dates have been established for the tournaments within driving distance of the Grand Strand.
The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island will be held April 13-16, the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., is May 4-7, and the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., is Aug. 10-13, and the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., is Aug. 17-20.
In addition, the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is Sept. 21-24 and the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort in St. Simons Island, Ga., is this upcoming Nov. 17-20 during the early fall season.
Academy has openings
The First Tee of Brunswick County has openings for its Carolinas Leadership Academy from Aug. 7-10 for teens ages 14-18.
Participants stay on site at the 9,000-square-foot building at the Cinghiale Creek Golf Park facility in Shallotte, N.C., for golf instruction, leadership classes, meals, games, beach trips and more.
The academy has dorm-style rooms and bathrooms, separate counselor rooms and an industrial kitchen. Males and females are separated into different halls, and staff and interns are present during the entire academy.
The three-night camp is $100. No golf experience is needed, as the camp features teens of all playing abilities.