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Olympics a big decision for golfers on the PGA Tour

Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner enters this week’s Wells Fargo Championship having made three consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour.
Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner enters this week’s Wells Fargo Championship having made three consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour. Getty Images

This summer’s Olympics in Brazil will feature golf for the first time. Who is and isn’t playing has become quite an issue on the PGA Tour.

“For me, it’s almost not a question as far as having the opportunity to possibly go down there,” American Rickie Fowler said Thursday at Quail Hollow Club. “I’ve still got to play well to make sure that I am there, but just to have the opportunity to walk in the opening ceremonies at the Olympics for your country would be pretty special. And I would get to play golf, so that would be a bonus.”

Golf’s spot in the Olympics has not been set beyond Rio and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. That played a part in Rory McIlroy’s decision to play for Ireland this summer.

“I’m not sure we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that, depending on what happens,” said McIlroy. “But I feel like I’d be letting (captain) Paul McGinley down. I’d let the country down, as well.”

Australian Adam Scott won’t play, a decision that has caused him some problems Down Under.

“The tough part was to choose not to represent Australia,” he said. “But I feel like I do that every week. I’ve lived my life representing Australia and I feel I’ve tried to do the best job I can of that. Of course, not everyone’s in my position. But I think I’m far from abandoning my country.”

For other players like Fowler, however, it’s a chance they can’t pass up.

“It wasn’t something where I was going to be a distance runner or sprinter or anything like that,” he said. “Those were not any of my major talents. So I’m going to have the opportunity to hit a golf ball around Rio.”

Worth mentioning

▪  Meghna Mazumdar, a 13-year-old from South Windsor, Conn., played in Wednesday’s pro-am with McIlroy after she won a Wells Fargo-sponsored essay writing contest. Actually, Meghna chose McIlroy.

“It’s nice to think that a young girl with the first pick to play with anyone in the pro-am, and she chose me,” said McIlroy, who was also the first pick of last year’s contest winner.

▪  Scott’s team, which included NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and Mike Glenn, won the pro-am with a 16-under 56. Paul Casey’s team was two strokes back.

▪  The American Junior Golf Association’s tournament in June at Greensboro’s Sedgfield Country Club has been renamed the Haas Family Invitational. The Haas family, including former PGA Tour golfer Jay and his son and current player Bill, has a long history with Sedgefield, where the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship will be played in August.

▪  Johnson Wagner, a Charlotte resident and Quail Hollow member, enters his hometown tournament with his game “sharp” after making the cut in his last three events.

Wagner, 36, went through a tough winter stretch in which he missed five consecutive cuts. But he tied for 13th at the Houston Open, a tournament he won in 2008 for his first PGA victory.

Wagner has never played well at Wells Fargo, but plans to take a more relaxed approach this year. He says the Panthers’ 8-0 regular-season record in Charlotte last year inspired him that playing at home doesn’t have to be “nerve-wracking.”

By the numbers

500 FedEx Cup points awarded the winner of the tournament (Adam Scott leads with 1,731).

9 Winners of the 13 previous tournaments in the field (Joey Sindelar, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim are missing; Rory McIlroy has won twice).

64 Lowest first-round score (Kirk Triplett, 2003; Bill Haas, 2011).

They said it

“I’m the one doing all the work.” – Adam Scott, on having caddies Steve Williams and David Clark split time (Williams is on Scott’s bag at Quail Hollow).

“I know that it’s on the coast and I know that it’s very nice there, but apart from that, I really don’t know much.” – Rory McIlroy, on Wilmington’s Eagle Point Golf Club, where the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship will be played.

“It’s one of those things that’s going to start fun and then it’s going to get competitive. That’s how it always goes.” – Luke Kuechly on Panthers teammate Greg Olsen’s appearance in the pro-am.

Weather forecast

High of 65; 40 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

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