Golf notebook: Mickelson eyes 2016 Olympics

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--Phil Mickelson, coming off a season in which he captured the Open Championship at Muirfield, let the world in on a little secret: He wants to compete in the Olympics.
Golf will return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years in the 2016 Games at Rio de Janeiro. The last time it was an Olympic sport was in the 1904 Games at St. Louis, where the United States won the team gold medal and George Lyon of Canada claimed the individual gold.
"Heading into (2014), I'm really excited, but the thing I'm working for is '16," said Mickelson, who represented the United States 10 times in the Presidents Cup, nine times in the Ryder Cup, in the 1996 Alfred Dunhill Cup and in the 2002 World Cup. "I want to be an Olympic athlete.
"It will be a challenge for me to be playing at the highest level when I'm 46 in three years, but right now I'm still one of the top guys in the world. I'm playing some of the best golf I've ever played."
As an amateur, Mickelson wore the Red, White and Blue at the 1989 and 1991 Walker Cups, and in the 1990 Eisenhower Trophy competition. He is the second-highest ranked American at No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings.
The top 15 players in the rankings among men and women will be eligible to play in Rio, regardless of country, and the next 45 players will be selected from the rankings to represent countries that do not already have two representatives.
Tiger Woods, who regained the No. 1 ranking last season, also has expressed an interest in the Olympics. He will be 40 in 2016.
--Jarrod Lyle of Australia, having beaten leukemia for the second time, is back.
The 32-year-old Lyle made his return to competitive golf in the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne, achieved his goal of making the cut before running out of steam and closing with an 8-over-par 79 and sliding to a tie for 57th.
As he reached the final green, Lyle received a standing ovation from the crowd, with even playing partner Michael Long applauding.
"I played five days in a row, including the pro-am, and the last nine holes I started to feel it," said Lyle, who admitted his legs we feeling heavy after two rounds.
"I got around, and it's not the end I wanted, but it's better than I thought it would be: three good rounds and one shocker, that's golf."
It was the first time the Aussie played in competition since he tied for 37th in the 2012 Mayakoba Classic, a week after posting his best finish on the PGA Tour, a tie for fourth in the Northern Trust Open.
Lyle, who overcame leukemia as a teenager in 1999, returned home to Australia to see his doctors after the tournament in Mexico because of an infection on his left arm made it difficult for him to straighten the arm to swing a club.
It was then that doctors determined that the leukemia returned.
Lyle was able to hold his daughter, Lusi, when his wife, Briony, gave birth to their first child on March 11, 2012, but not after he began chemotherapy treatments four days later
"It's been 20 of the hardest months I've been through, but now it's like I never left," Lyle said early in the week at Royal Melbourne. "The hardest part is going back out and seeing everyone. I couldn't have picked a better spot to start my comeback."
After Lyle endured multiple chemotherapy treatments and underwent a bone marrow transplant, doctors declared him cancer-free last June. Two months ago, doctors cleared him to play golf again.
--Adam Scott, who rose to new heights with caddie Steve Williams, might have to carry on without his bagman in the not-so-distant future.
Williams, who previously carried the bag for Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd among others, announced last week that 2014 might be his last season as a full-time caddie.
"Next year will be 36 years (as a caddie)," said the New Zealander, who will turn 50 next month. "I like 36, it's a nice number, it's a golf number."
Williams was on the bag for 13 of Woods' 14 major championships, and Scott gives him credit contributing to a career turnaround that led to him becoming the first Australian to capture the Masters last April.
Scott didn't seem to be surprised.
"He was honest with me a couple of years ago and said he didn't have long in him," Scott said. "If I play really good next year, maybe I can persuade him to go one more season. He is getting along in years."
Williams said his plan would be to work only the bigger events, such as the majors and the World Golf Championships, so that he could spent more time at home with his family and with his other occupation, auto racing.
--Ernie Els, who was scheduled to play for the first time in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., withdrew his commitment to the event.
Instead, the Big Easy will play in the Nedbank Challenge at Gary Player Golf Club in George, South Africa, on the same dates, Dec. 5-8.
"This tournament holds some really wonderful memories for me and my whole family," Els wrote on his website in explaining why he is playing in the event in his native country.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back and playing such a special event. Also, this was in part a family decision -- Liezl, Samantha and Ben are with me for a short while and it made a lot of sense to compete at Sun City."
Els won the South African tournament in 1999, 2000 and 2002, and his scoring average in his 17 appearances in the tournament is 69.93, with 46 rounds under par.
The Northwestern Mutual Challenge, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, would have enjoyed having Els on board for the first time, but it's not exactly a huge blow to tournament officials.
Els was quickly replaced by Dustin Johnson, which means that 18 of the top 29 players in last week's World Golf Rankings will be playing in the tournament -- every member of the 18-man field.
--Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., will be the site for the 2021 Walker Cup, Golf Digest reported on its website.
The Donald Ross classic along the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida, where Ben Hogan would prepared for the Masters every spring, will open its doors for a public competition for the first time since it opened in 1929.
Seminole would seem to be a little short by modern standards, at 6,836 yards from the tips, but the wind coming off the Atlantic and difficult greens make it a strong test.
In the popular pro-member event held every spring, the low score is Rickey Fowler's 7-under-par 65, set earlier this year.
The Walker Cup, which pits the best amateurs from the United States against those from Great Britain and Ireland, is a biennial event first played at the Golf Links of America in 1922.
The United States, which holds a 34-8-1 lead in the series, claimed the Walker Cup again earlier this year in a return to the Golf Links of America.
In 2015, it will be played for the first time at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England.
--The Legends of Golf, the tournament that spawned the Champions Tour when it was first played 36 years ago, won't return to the Club at Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga., where it was played for the last 11 years.
Liberty Mutual Insurance pulled out as title sponsor in July.
The 54-hole tournament remains on the Champions Tour's schedule next year for April 26-28, but a new venue has not been selected. The King and Bear Course at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., where the event was held from 1999-2002, has been mentioned.
"The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, along with the Savannah community, have been a wonderful host of this event for the past 11 years," Champions Tour president Mike Stevens said in a statement. "Although we will not be returning to Savannah in 2014, our hope is that the Champions Tour will return to Savannah in the near future."
Sam Snead and Gardner Dickinson won the two-man team event when it was first played in 1978 at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas, and that event led to the creation of what was first called the PGA Senior Tour.
Brad Faxon and Jeff Sluman claimed the title earlier this year.

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