Golf: While the Open Championship is headed home for its 150th edition, Tony Romo and Bubba Watson are pointing toward other athletic pursuits. Finally, Jack Nicklaus opts to step back.
By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor
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- The 150th edition of the Open Championship will be played at the Home of Golf. To no one’s surprise, St. Andrews was announced as host of the 2021 Open, marking the 30th time the Old Course will serve as the venue. The move had been roundly anticipated, with the governing R&A last year breaking its three-decade pattern of awarding St. Andrews the Open in years ending in “0” and “5”. Royal St. George’s got the 2020 Open, clearing the way for St. Andrews in the sesquicentennial. Zach Johnson captured the most recent Open at the Old Course, outlasting Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a four-hole playoff.
- Though Tony Romo has played numerous celebrity tournaments and just finished a week at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, next month it’s for real as he makes his PGA Tour debut. The former Cowboys quarterback – now CBS’s top NFL analyst – has accepted a sponsor exemption to the Dominican Republic stop being played opposite the WGC Match Play. Romo is a scratch golfer who reached the second stage of U.S. Open qualifying in 2010 and last year teed it up in the Western Amateur. He’ll try to emulate the feat of Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry, who shot a pair of 74s at a Web.com Tour event last year.
- Already a two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson’s portfolio can add an NBA All-Star appearance. Watson will take part in Friday’s All-Star Celebrity Game, mixing jump shots with such retired stars as Tracy McGrady and Paul Pierce, plus actors Jamie Foxx and Anthony Anderson. Watson started lobbying for an invitation several weeks ago, upon learning All-Star Weekend would be in Los Angeles the same week as the Genesis Open. He played a little high-school hoops in Florida, though baseball was his second love. The PGA Tour has arranged a morning tee time Friday that will allow Watson to get from Riviera Country Club to Staples Center on time
- Though the Winter Olympics are primarily about snow and ice, organizers of the PyeongChang Games found a way to honor two of South Korea’s golf VIPs during last week’s opening ceremony. Inbee Park, who captured the first gold medal for women’s golf two years ago in Brazil, was one of the final torchbearers inside the stadium before the cauldron was lit. Her appearance was preceded by fellow Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, one of eight marchers who came in bearing the South Korean flag to be raised.
- After nearly five decades, Jack Nicklaus is handing off the golf conglomerate that bears his name. The 78-year-old icon announced he’s stepping away from day-to-day activities at the Nicklaus Companies, opting for more time with his family and toward his charitable efforts. Howard Milstein, whose Emigrant Capital is a major shareholder in the Nicklaus Companies, assumes the role of executive chairman. Jack Nicklaus II will remain in charge of Nicklaus Design, which has its name on some 415 courses worldwide.
PGA TOUR: Genesis Open
Site: Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
- Defending champion: Dustin Johnson used a 36-hole Sunday as a springboard to No.1, cruising over the final round to a five-stroke victory. A third-round 64 took a one-shot edge to five, and Johnson pushed the lead to as much as nine before easing off the accelerator. Thomas Pieters and Scott Brown shared second.
- Last week: Ted Potter Jr. crashed the Pebble Beach clambake, shaking off an opening bogey on the final day to upend Johnson and two other top rivals for an unlikely victory. Potter followed that opening bogey with four birdies in his next six holes to pull away, finishing three shots ahead of Johnson, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Chez Reavie.
- Tour talk: Tiger Woods returns to Riviera for the first time since 2006, seeking again to conquer a hometown course that has proven toughest for him to crack. He has teed it up there 10 times without victory. … Johnson hasn’t finished lower than fourth in his past four visits, including a pair of seconds. … Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy give the field four of the top eight in the world.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 2-6 p.m. ET; Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Saturday, 2-3:30 p.m.; Sunday 1-2:45 p.m.) and CBS (Saturday. 4-7 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6:30 p.m.).
- Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; Genesis Open primer from Pro Golf Weekly.
LPGA TOUR: Women’s Australian Open
Site: Kooyonga GC, Adelaide, Australia
- Defending champion: Ha Na Jang used an eagle/birdie finish to record her fourth LPGA win, finishing three shots clear of Nanna Koerstz Madsen. Though victory began a run of three top-5 finishes in four starts, Jang left the tour in May to return to her native South Korea. She now calls the Korean LPGA circuit home.
- Tour talk: Lydia Ko makes her 2018 debut, trying to put a winless 2017 behind her. The 20-year-old pro arrives with a new caddie in Jonny Scott, who once worked for Hall of Famer Laura Davies. … So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn and Cristie Kerr give the field four of the top 10 in the world rankings. … Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is one of 14 Aussies trying to win their national Open.
- TV: Golf Channel (Wednesday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.; Thursday-Friday, 10 p.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.).
EUROPEAN TOUR: NBO Oman Open
Site: Al Mouj Golf, Muscat, Oman
- Defending champion: The tournament debuts on the full European stage, becoming the fifth Middle Eastern stop on the schedule.
- Last week: Kiradech Aphibarnrat turned a late entry into his fourth European crown, winning the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth by ousting James Nitties 2&1 in the six-hole match play finale. The Thai pro played no practice rounds and needed a playoff to reach match play, then found himself last man standing after five abbreviated matches.
- Tour talk: Oman gets an upgrade in the European Tour hierarchy, having staged the Challenge Tour finale from 2015-17. … European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn heads the lineup, joined by Robert Karlsson, Thomas Colsaerts and Andy Sullivan. … Omani amateur Azaan Al Rumhy becomes the first from his nation to play a tour event.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 5-8 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 4-7:30 a.m.).
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Chubb Classic
Site: TwinEagles GC (Talon), Naples, Fla.
- 2017 champion: Fred Couples notched his first victory since 2014, using a 5-under-par 67 to jet past Miguel Angel Jimenez on the final day. One shot back entering the final round, Couples made his move with three birdies on the front nine and matched Jimenez’s birdies at Nos. 14 and 18. Couples is not defending.
- Last week: Mark Calcavecchia earned his first Champions win since 2015, going wire-to-wire at the Boca Raton Championship as Bernhard Langer suffered a stunning bogey/bogey finish. Langer had drawn even with Calcavecchia before a short par miss at No.17, then drove it poorly on the closing hole.
- Tour talk: Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly head to Naples after playing last week at Pebble Beach, where Stricker was among the 54-hole leaders until a Sunday stumble. … Kelly missed the cut, snapping a run of form that included a win at the Champions opener in Hawaii and top-15 at the Sony Open.
- TV: Golf Channel (Friday, noon-2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-5 p.m.).
WEB.COM TOUR: Idle
Next up: El Bosque Mexico Championship, March 8-11, León, Mexico
- Tour talk: English pro Ben Taylor went wire-to-wire to capture last week’s Colombia Championship, building a four-shot lead through 54 holes and cruising to win by six. … The tour has seen winners from four different nations in its first four events. Taylor was preceded on the champions’ roster by Sungjae Im (South Korea), Adam Svensson (Canada) and Scott Langley (United States).