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Zika Virus a new concern for Olympic Golf in Brazil

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
Zika Virus a new concern for Olympic Golf in Brazil
Construction for the Olympic golf course is seen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Officials plan to create movement in the course's two man made ponds to disrupt potential breeding grounds for mosquitos carrying the Zika virus. File photo by A.RICARDO/ Shutterstock.com

Concerns about the Gil Hanse-designed golf course for the Olympic Games in August in Rio de Janeiro have pretty much subsided, but now there is another worry, according to Golf.com.

It is the Zika virus.

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Olympic officials are taking precautions to prevent golfers and spectators from contracting the disease in Brazil, because the golf competition will take place near standing water hazards, common breeding sites for mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

There are two manmade ponds on the course, with the larger one coming into play on the second, third and fifth holes, while the smaller is in play only on the 10th.

"We're having discussions about the precautionary steps we feel need to be taken in and around the golf competition, and making plans to implement them to the maximum degree," said Ty Votaw, vice president of the International Golf Federation.

Votaw said special mosquito repellant might be distributed to fans, and officials plan to create movement in the ponds to eliminate standing water.

Infectious disease experts claim as many as 1.5 million people are believed to be already infected with the virus in Brazil, which will host about 500,000 people from around the world for the Games.

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While not normally life-threatening, Zika virus is believed to be a possible cause of birth defects.

Golf will be played in the Olympics for the first time since 1904 in St. Louis, with the men's golf tournament scheduled for Aug. 11-14 and the women's event set for Aug. 17-20.

--The Senior Open Championship will be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews for the first time in its storied history in 2018, the R&A and European Tour announced.

St. Andrews has hosted the Open Championship on 28 occasions, including last year when Zach Johnson claimed the Claret Jug.

Five-time Open champion Tom Watson, who never won the tournament at St. Andrews, said, "The one thing that I hope that I can rectify is that I left my competitive Open Championship history with that three-putt (in 2009, when he lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry) and prior to that a shank. So I hope that I can do it a little bit better in my next appearance at St Andrews.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to have another appearance. I've had a great run, I'm 66 years old right now ... but I still feel as if just yesterday I played in my first Open Championship at Carnoustie. I remember the trip over and the subsequent years of success and failure.

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"I think with the event being at the Old Course at St. Andrews, it's going to be a complete success."

Added six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo, who claimed the second of his three Open victories at St. Andrews in 1990: "It is absolutely fantastic to see the Senior Open Championship going to St. Andrews in 2018. This certainly gives me another golfing goal, and I only hope my game is good enough to give it a go on the Old Course."

Marco Dawson won Senior Open last year at Sunningdale. The 30th edition of the event will be played this year at Carnoustie, followed by Royal Porthcawl in 2017.

--Mark Rolfing, golf analyst for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel, said tests showed that the rare form of cancer he was afflicted with last year is "100 percent gone."

Rolfing discovered a small lump on his cheek below his ear on July 1 and believed it was part of a sinus infection.

However, the 65-year-old was diagnosed last summer with Stage 4 salivary gland cancer. Rolfing underwent a 7 1/2-hour operation to remove a malignant tumor before undergoing six weeks of proton radiation aimed at a small target on his face to avoid damage to the mouth and brain.

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After a PET scan at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Rolfing said in a text message: "Mucho tears in Houston today. Cancer is 100 percent gone. Miracle."

Rolfing, who lives in Hawaii, returned to work with NBC and the Golf Channel for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Mitsubishi Championship at Hualalai last month.

In addition, he was part of the NBC Sports team for the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week.

--Jim Furyk's absence from the PGA Tour will continue for at least three months after he said that a left wrist injury did not improve, forcing him to have surgery.

The 45-year-old veteran injured the wrist in the BMW Championship last September during the FedEx Cup playoffs. He withdrew from the tournament during the first round, then was unable to play in the Tour Championship or the Presidents Cup.

"While I am disappointed that the wrist has not yet healed sufficiently for me to return to play, I am confident that the surgery at this point is the best course of action and will get me back in the shortest possible time," Furyk said in a statement. "This has been frustrating for me to this point, but I am focusing on an aggressive rehabilitation program and having a strong year once I am sufficiently healed."

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Furyk, who was 10th in the World Golf Rankings last week, will miss the Masters for the first time since 1996.

After nursing the injury through the offseason, Furyk began hitting balls in December to get ready for the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the first week of January.

Furyk, who has won 17 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2003 U.S. Open, was looking forward to playing in the Hawaii event for the first time in five years after ending the longest non-winning streak in his career by capturing the RBC Heritage last year at Hilton Head in a playoff with Kevin Kisner.

However, he realized about a week before the tournament that he would not be able to make it. He set his sights on the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week, but now he is not sure exactly when he will be able to rejoin the PGA Tour.

--Caddie Dave Renwick of Scotland, who carried the golf bag of three major champions, died of stomach cancer at the age of 62.

Renwick was alongside Jose Maria Olazabal when the Spaniard won the 1994 Masters, with Steve Elkington when the Australian claimed the 1995 PGA Championship and carried for Vijay Singh of Fiji for titles at the 1998 PGA, the 2000 Masters and the 2004 PGA.

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One of the most respected caddies in the game, Renwick was with Singh when the Big Fijian claimed nine victories on the PGA Tour in 2004 and unseated Tiger Woods as the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings.

Players, caddies and officials wore black ribbons in honor of Renwick last week at the Dubai Desert Classic.

--Keegan Bradley parred the opening hole of the first round in the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week, but it quickly turned into a double bogey.

That was because Bradley discovered after completing the hole that he had 15 clubs in his bag, one over the legal limit, for which he was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

"I don't know what we missed to not catch that," Bradley said later. "It sucks."

Bradley carries either a 3-iron or a hybrid club in his bag, depending on the course and what shots be believes he will have to hit in certain situations.

This time, after an hour-long fog delay, both were left in his golf bag.

"That's on me," caddie Steve Hale said, but Bradley said: "He's a great caddie. We all make mistakes."

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Bradley got over the setback to shoot 3-under-par 68, but a 66 would have left him one stroke out of the first-round lead. He finished the tournament tied for 24th.

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