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Golf notebook: R&A believes McIlroy might be Irish in IOC's eyes

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--It looked as if Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland might have a difficult decision to make if he decides to play when golf returns to the Olympic Games for the first time in 112 years in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.

McIlroy has loyalties to Ireland and Great Britain, and he caused a little fuss last year when he said he felt more British and might play for the Brits.

However, Chief Executive Peter Dawson of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews said McIlroy inadvertently might have made his decision earlier in his career.

"Because of Rory's history of playing for Ireland at amateur level and at World Cup level, there may be a regulation within the Olympic rules which would determine who he would have to play (for)," Dawson said. "We are still looking at the matter, but under that regulation, he could play under Irish colors.

"It's quite ambiguous as there are regulations within the IOC that if you play previous world championships for a certain country, that has to carry with you."

Dawson noted, however, that golf doesn't have the same structure as other sports.

"But I would very much like to take this burden of choice away from the player, if possible, because it's not fair," Dawson said. "I think Rory has made it pretty clear, and what I have heard privately, he is worried about it and the last thing we want is a player worrying about it."

The deadly violence that plagued Northern Ireland has subsided, but religious tensions still run high, and if McIlroy chose to represent Ireland, he could face a backlash from the Loyalist community, which is predominantly Protestant.

If he decided to play for Great Britain, he might anger Republicans, who are predominantly Roman Catholic.

McIlroy told the BBC earlier this year that he might not play in the Olympics if he believes that playing for one side or the other might cause too many problems.

--NEC Corporation, in a joint announcement with the PGA Tour, said through NEC Latin America that the company is expanding its presence on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica by becoming the umbrella sponsor of the 15-event circuit.

The sponsorship, which took place immediately, changed the name of the tour to NEC Series-PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

The announcement was made last week at the NEC Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational, which was played at the Club de Golf del Uruguay.

"We are extremely pleased to announce this landmark sponsorship for the tour and to welcome NEC as an umbrella sponsor of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica," said Jack Warfield, president of NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.

"We look forward to working with our partners at NEC to maximize its presence on the Tour as we continue to build the PGA Tour's presence throughout Latin America."

NEC sponsored a popular PGA Tour event, the World Series of Golf at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, for 15 years, through 1998.

When that tournament because one of the first World Golf Championships events in 1999, the company continued its sponsorship for seven years until Bridgestone took over as title sponsor.

"We are very excited to reinforce our presence with the PGA Tour through PGA Tour Latinoamerica," said Carlos Martinangeli, chief operating officer and senior vice president of NEC Latin America.

"As a former World Golf Championships sponsor, NEC well understands the importance and effectiveness of sponsorship for golf tournaments. The NEC Series-PGA Tour Latinoamerica will expand NEC's presence in Latin America and beyond."

One week after losing to Adam Scott in a playoff at the Masters earlier this month, two-time major champion Angel Cabrera returned home to Argentina and captured a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event, the Abierto OSDE del Centro, on his home course at Cordoba Golf Club.

--The Wells Fargo Championship will be played this week at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., even though several greens on the course underwent emergency maintenance in recent days.

The eighth and 10th greens were completely re-sodded only nine days before the scheduled start on Thursday, and the 12th and 13th greens were re-sodded in selected places.

Reportedly, 14 of the 18 greens will be a bit bumpy for the tournament.

"They would not have been in acceptable condition," said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's senior vice president of tournament administration. "It was a rather extraordinary step."

Johnson Wagner, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and a member at Quail Hollow, reportedly played the course a few weeks ago, when temporary greens were in place on the eighth and 10th holes.

According to Wagner, the problems with the 10th green can be traced back to excessive top-dressing of the bentgrass greens by the PGA Tour's agronomy staff in the weeks leading up to the event.

"It went from a perfectly sodded green three weeks ago, which I thought was unbelievable, to being dead," Johnson said. "We're hoping to make it through this tournament unscathed.

"It's unfortunate because we put on such a great golf course and a great event for, I guess, this is our 11th year, and it's going to leave a sour taste in our mouths for this year."

With a limited time to make repairs, the re-sodding of the eighth and 10th greens was done with strips 40 feet long by four feet wide, to minimize the number of seams.

Padzer disagreed with Johnson's assessment of why the greens needed to be repaired and, in the case of the eighth and 10th holes, completely re-sodded.

"There were a number of factors involved which contributed to the decline in conditions of the 10th green," Padzer said. "But over-top-dressing was not one of them."

After the tournament this week, all 18 greens will be torn up and replaced with a more heat-tolerant MiniVerde Bermudagrass as Quail Hollow prepares to host the 2017 PGA Championship.

--Every avid golf fan knows that Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships are the benchmark in the sport, a goal Tiger Woods has chased since putting the Golden Bear's achievements on his wall as a youngster.

However, Nicklaus will tell you that at some point about the time he claimed his last major title at the 1986 Masters, he lost two majors.

And he's not exactly sure when it happened.

"I was probably at 17 or 18 majors, including the (U.S.) Amateurs, and all of a sudden I had 15 or 16," Nicklaus said recently. "What happened here? All of a sudden it became 'professional' majors."

In his prime, Nicklaus was in pursuit of Bobby Jones, whose 13 major titles included five U.S. Amateur Championships and one British Amateur Championship.

Nicklaus captured the U.S. Amateur twice.

"When I passed Jones' record, it was with the amateurs," Nicklaus said. "It related back to Jones."

Nicklaus passed Jones when he captured the 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, and it was record-breaking one way or the other, because his 12th professional major eclipsed Walter Hagen's pro record of 11.

Nicklaus' best guess is that the U.S. Amateur was no longer considered a major when Woods won it a record three straight times from 1994 to 1996.

"Because they didn't really count Tiger's as majors," Nicklaus said. "Rather than counting Tiger's as majors, they didn't do that, and they sort of took mine away."

By the old standard, Nicklaus still leads Woods 20-17.

--Chief executive officer Martin Senn of Zurich Insurance Group announced that the company is extending its sponsorship of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans by five years.

The company did not disclose its financial commitment, but Senn said the tournament creates nearly $30 million in annual spending in the New Orleans area.

The new deal expires in 2019.

"This extension shows Zurich's continued commitment to New Orleans and its people," Senn said during a press conference at TPC Louisiana. "Our sponsorship has allowed us to build valuable relationships with the Fore!Kids Foundation and the PGA Tour.

"Together we have raised more than $9 million to support local charities, whose mission is to help children in need in the New Orleans area. The Zurich Classic has paid dividends on many levels, and I am confident that Zurich's bonds with New Orleans will grow even stronger in the years ahead."

Zurich took over as title sponsor of the New Orleans event in 2005, less than a year before Hurricane Katrina devastated south Louisiana.

Senn said the opportunity to promote the region's recovery after the storm only further motivated Zurich to maintain its ties to the tournament beyond its previous agreement.

The Zurich Classic has helped rebuild 450 homes in St. Bernard Parish, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.

--Al Geiberger is auctioning off the clubs he played when he became the first player in the history of the PGA Tour to shoot 59, a feat he accomplished at Colonial Country Club in the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic in 1977.

The clubs are part of a vast collection of memorabilia that Geiberger, who won 11 times on the PGA Tour, 10 titles on the Champions Tour and 30 times in his pro career, is selling off through Green Jacket Auctions.

"Rather than have my most important memorabilia from my golf career gather dust in storage, I have decided to share it with the world," the 75-year-old Geiberger wrote on his Facebook page.

"Green Jacket Auctions is now looking for bidders to find a cherished home for some of my most significant artifacts. A good home is important to me."

The clubs, being sold as a set, include a Spalding Al Geiberger model driver, a TopFlite 4-wood, TopFlite Legacy 2- and 3-irons, Spalding Al Geiberger 4- through 9- irons, a Wilson sand wedge, a TopFlite wedge and a Con-Sole wedge.

Being sold separately is the Ping Pal putter he used in his record-setting round.

In addition, Geiberger also is auctioning the Wanamaker Trophy and the gold medal he received for winning the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club

Already, nearly $16,000 has been bid for his Wanamaker Trophy, while bids on his clubs from the round of 59 are approaching $4,000.

Also available at auction are the clubs with which Geiberger captured the PGA Championship, the trophy from his victory in the Memphis Classic, the silver medal he received for finishing second in the U.S. Open in 1969, crystals for making eagles at the Masters and his 1975 Ryder Cup money clip.

Representatives of Green Jacket Auctions went to Geiberger's home in La Quinta, Calif., to film the pilot episode of a new reality TV show based on Green Jacket Auctions.

Geiberger never saw the footage of his 59, taken by two Memphis television stations, until a few months ago, according to Larry Bohannan of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs.

One station taped over its copy and the lost its tape.

However, a copy was found in an attic in Pennsylvania, and the Golf Channel surprised Geiberger by showing him perhaps the only remaining footage of the historic round.

The four ensuing 59s on the PGA Tour, posted by Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, by David Duval in the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, by Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic, and by Stuart Appleby in the 2010 John Deere Classic, have been televised.
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