PGA looking for players to test Rio golf course

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PGA looking for players to test Rio golf course

HONOLULU - With golf joining the Olympics for the first time since 1904, the U.S. PGA Tour is trying to put together a test event for the new course in Rio de Janeiro.

The tour is having a tough time finding anyone to go because of the crowded schedule.

“We’ve got a good list of players who are, quote, interested in coming,” tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But we don’t have a long list of players who are committed to coming. That’s the case with the guys who are currently playing on the PGA Tour, just because of the schedule, looking ahead to the summer, seeing the compaction. So I don’t know.”

The test event is planned for March 8, and the tour has lined up a charter flight for its members.

Every sport must have an event at the Olympic venue ahead of the Rio Games. Finchem said if golf can pull together this outing, it will count as the test event.

“We can do that with any combination of players that are being talked to,” he said. “Also, it’s probably most important to get international players. We don’t know how it’s going to wind up. We’ve got transportation issues and a sponsor the next week that’s watching and saying, ‘Am I going to lose anybody?”’

The World Golf Championship at Doral ends on March 6 and is followed by the Valspar Championship, where Jordan Spieth is the defending champion. His agent, Jay Danzi, said the tour approached Spieth about a trip to Rio, but he didn’t want it to interfere with his title defense at Innisbrook.

The European Tour and Asian Tour have a co-sanctioned event in Thailand that week. The U.S. LPGA Tour is off, though its best players will be in Singapore on March 6 for the HSBC Women’s Champions.

British Open champion Zach Johnson said he was asked. His foundation has a retreat that week. Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler also were approached and decided against a flight to Brazil. It’s a month before the Masters, with tournaments like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Dell Match Play and Shell Houston Open leading up to Augusta.

Finchem is eager to have the test event, and not just to tick off that box.

“You know as well I do, we build these golf courses and ‘Oh, it’s great.’ And then you get the best players in the world on there and we’ve got 10 problems,” he said. “They see things you didn’t notice. So we want to get that done.”

He also described the Gil Hanse design as having a “hangover” from environmental protests and legal challenges that delayed the project. AP

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