By Jeff Shain, Tribune newspapers
February 2, 2012
What figures to be golf's most scrutinized new course could have its architect by the end of the week.
The eight finalists for the 2016 Rio Olympics design project — a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player — wrapped up two days of presentations to organizers Wednesday in Brazil. From there, a selection committee will wrestle with the final choice.
Rio 2016 will mark golf's return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence. But there's no guarantee it'll remain beyond 2020, leaving bidders fully aware of the need for a good first impression.
"In 2017, they vote on whether golf will continue in the Olympics beyond 2020," Nicklaus said. "We have one shot at keeping golf in the Olympics."
The course will be constructed on undeveloped acreage about three miles from the planned Olympic Village, which includes a mangrove forest and lagoon a few hundred yards from the ocean.
A combined Nicklaus/Sorenstam bid is considered the front-runner; Norman brought Lorena Ochoa into his effort. Bids by Player and Australia's Peter Thomson also bring the star power of former major winners.
Design specialists make up the other half of the finalists list: Americans Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Doak and Gil Hanse, along with Britain's Martin Hawtree.
Diplomatic 18: Bill Clinton, unable to finish a pro-am round with Greg Norman in California, will travel to the Nationwide Tour's Colombia Championship later this month.
Proceeds from the Nationwide season opener will support the Clinton Foundation's Sustainable Growth Initiative in Colombia. Clinton's visit includes the Feb. 15 pro-am at the Country Club ofBogota.
The Clinton Foundation also is chief beneficiary of the Humana Challenge, where the former president and Norman came in after nine holes as high winds wreaked havoc on the course.
Tap-ins: Notah Begay III has been chosen by the Golf Writers Association of America to receive its Charlie Bartlett Award for contributions to the betterment of society. Begay's NB3 Foundation has raised more than $3.2 million to battle childhood obesity and diabetes among American Indian children. … The NHL's Lightning have signed on as host of their local Champions Tour stop. —Jeff Shain
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