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Golf roundup: U.S. Open will return to Winged Foot in 2020

The SportsXchange

--The United States Golf Association announced that the U.S. Open would return to the West Course at famed Winged Foot in 2020.

The historic layout in Mamaroneck, N.Y., will host the national championship for the sixth time, equaling Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for third on the list of U.S. Open courses.

Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., has been the site of the tournament a record eight times and will make it nine in 2016, and Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., has hosted the event seven times.

"Winged Foot offers a spectacular setting in a dynamic market and has justifiably earned its reputation as one of the premier U.S. Open venues in the nation," said Thomas O'Toole Jr., vice president of the USGA and head of its championship committee.

"And it joins an impressive lineup of future U.S. Open Championship locations that players and fans alike can eagerly anticipate."

Winged Foot, designed by A.W. Tillinghast, opened in 1923 and hosted its first U.S. Open six years later, when the great Bobby Jones holed a 12-foot putt on the final hole to force a 36-hole playoff. The next day, Jones won by 23 strokes over Al Espinosa.

Other U.S. Open champions at Winged Foot were Billy Casper in 1959, Hale Irwin in 1974, Fuzzy Zoeller in a playoff over Greg Norman in 1984 and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006.

Phil Mickelson held a one-stroke lead over Ogilvy while standing on the 18th tee, but he pushed his tee shot off a corporate hospitality tent en route to a double bogey and later said, "I am such an idiot."

Mickelson, who has finished second in the U.S. Open five times and never has won it, will be 50 when the tournament returns to Winged Foot.

--Most of the talk last week about Phil Mickelson centered around his claims that he was thinking about making changes in his life because of changes in the California and U.S. tax structures.

However, almost unnoticed in a story by Larry Dorman of pga.com about Rory McIlroy's move to Nike was a claim that Mickelson's gambling habits were investigated by Callaway before the company signed him to a lucrative, long-term contract in 2004.

"The month before the (2004) Ryder Cup was to be played at Oakland Hills, (Mickelson) signed with Callaway, swayed by the company's new golf ball and driver combination," Dorman wrote. "The surprise signing and the proximity of the Ryder Cup combined to cause quite an uproar in the media.

"Baseless rumors arose in some quarters, questioning Mickelson's motivation for signing. When I say baseless, I mean totally unfounded, manufactured rumors alleging gambling debts that had no basis in fact.

"Mickelson did like to gamble at the time, but he had zero outstanding debts and his betting patterns -- a stat that Vegas casinos keep -- had him even, to slightly up.

"All the information was checked out by Callaway's head of investigations, a former head of counterintelligence for the U.S. Army, and no evidence was found to support the claims, either of gambling debt or any other charge."

Dorman was a senior vice president for Callaway when Mickelson left Titleist to sign with Callaway.

--None of the principals said much after executive director Mike Davis of the United States Golf Association met with members of the PGA Tour last week at Torrey Pines to discuss the proposed ban of anchored putters by the USGA and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour told reporters the next day that his organization could go its own way on the matter but probably will not.

"Personally, I think in some situations bifurcation is OK," Finchem said. "I'm not so sure bifurcation is important in this particular case, but we're not at a point yet where I am opining on what we think we should do.

"We believe in the notion that one body of rules is important, and that's always our intent."

Said Davis after the meeting: "This is the PGA Tour's meeting. They asked us here as their guests. We just feel it would be very inappropriate to say anything more than that."

The USGA and R&A announced jointly on Nov. 28 a proposed rule that would outlaw players from anchoring the club against their bodies, which golfers with belly putters and broom-handle putters do. Three of the past five major champions have used belly putters.

The ban is expected to be announced as soon as next month but would not go into effect until 2016. However, Finchem hinted if the change is made, the PGA Tour might outlaw anchored putters sooner.

"If you're presenting the sport, my view would be to move it quicker if it's going to happen because it continues to be a distraction if you don't," Finchem said. "You have players on television, in front of galleries, playing with a method that has been outlawed, even though the enforcement date is later. That's in and of itself the makings of a distraction.

"On the other hand, if you're a player who has grown up using that method -- your livelihood depends on it -- you probably are inclined to not want it to go into effect for a period of time. Here again, the issue is damned if you do, damned if you don't, to some extent. So it needs to be thought through carefully."

Among those who skipped the meeting were Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who do not use long putters, although Lefty has dabbled with it.

--The LPGA Tour announced the creation of an eight-nation team event beginning in 2014, two years before golf returns to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The International Crown, a biennial match-play event featuring four-player teams, will be held at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., outside Baltimore from July 24-27, 2014.

"We celebrate great players from all over the world on a weekly basis, but this is the first time we'll pit country versus country for global bragging rights," LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement.

"Only countries that have produced the best female teams can compete and only four players from any one country will be invited. The International Crown will take women's golf to the next level and allow fans to rally behind their homelands."

Players will be selected based on Rolex World Rankings, and teams will be split into two brackets for the $1.6 million event.

After three days of four-ball matches, the top five teams will advance to the final round of singles matches on the Sunday. Points accumulated over all four days will determine the winning team.

"It's like preparing for the Olympics," said Yani Tseng of Taiwan, the No. 1 player in the world. "In Taiwan and in Asia, we don't have a team event like this.

"This is a good opportunity for us to play for our countries. It's really going to be awesome."

Based on current world rankings, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Taiwan and England would compete in inaugural International Crown.

--Mark O'Meara will try to roll back the years when he plays this week in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club.

The 56-year-old O'Meara, who plays on the Champions Tour, is a "Golf in Dubai ambassador." He become one of the oldest winners in European Tour history when he won the tournament in 2004, besting a field that included his pal Tiger Woods.

"My health is good," said O'Meara, who has claimed 34 professional victories in his career, including 16 on the PGA Tour and two on the Champions Tour. "My family is great. I'm blessed to have played this game for a long time, and I'm still playing.

"I've only won twice since joining the Champions Tour in 2007, but I've had about 13 seconds, so I know how tough it is to win. As far as being competitive, that never changes. And it won't until they put me in the grave.

"I don't like finishing second, to be honest with you."

O'Meara claimed his only major titles in 1998, winning the Masters, then taking the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in a playoff over Brian Watts.

--The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will become the first regular European Tour event to be shown live on a major United States television network when NBC shows third- and fourth-round play on July 13 and 14.

NBC signed a two-year contract with Aberdeen Asset Management to televise 2 1/2 hours of each of the last two rounds in the tournament, which this year will be played one week before the 142nd Open Championship at Murifield, Scotland.

NBC's partner, the Golf Channel, will televise parts of all four rounds of the tournament at Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness, Scotland, this year and from Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in 2014.

"Showcasing the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in concert on both NBC and Golf Channel is yet another example of the strength of the NBC Sports Group," said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports.

Until now, the Open Championship, World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup are the only men's golf events played in Europe that have been televised live on a major network in the United States.

The Golf Channel has televised a large schedule of European Tour events for several years, including the Scottish Open.

"It is a fantastic boost for Scottish golf and an incredible opportunity for Scotland to showcase the magnificent scenery of the Highlands and the fantastic golf on offer at Castle Stuart and across the country," said First Minister Alex Salmond of Scotland.

"This is an agreement brokered on the course at the (2013) Ryder Cup in Medinah, and I know from my time at that tournament that U.S. golf fans have an incredible affinity for Scotland as the undisputed Home of Golf."

NBC obviously is hoping the Scottish Open will draw high ratings because many Americans and others from the PGA Tour play in the event to get a feel for links golf ahead of the Open Championship.
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