MELBOURNE, Australia — PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem says progress on construction of the troubled course for golf's return to the Olympics at Rio in 2016 is "reasonably good" and that he would travel to Brazil early next year to check on its progress.
The course at Venue Reserva de Marapendi has been plagued by delays over land rights. It was originally scheduled to be completed by 2014 but American architect Gil Hanse, who is designing the course, admitted in July that it would not be tournament-ready until 2015.
"The progress is reasonably good, we were really concerned for a period of time," Finchem said at a media conference Wednesday on the eve the World Cup at Royal Melbourne. "Gil Hanse from all indications is doing a good job.
"I was told yesterday that the irrigation system for the golf course had boarded a ship in Los Angeles and was headed for the Panama Canal. So we'll have some water on the golf course."
Hanse was given the job of building the course for golf's return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
He said in July that the original plans were to have the course ready by 2014, giving organizers two years to fine-tune the course before the start of the Olympics. But Hanse said construction was now expected to be done by the first half of 2014 and the course would be ready to host a test event in the second half of 2015.
"If we were trying to stick to the original schedule — no chance," Hanse said in July.
Construction on the course was delayed by a court case involving the title holder of the property and a developer who claimed legal rights to the land and wanted to build houses instead of the golf course.
OLYMPIC HINT: Graeme McDowell believes his decision to play the World Cup of Golf under the Irish flag in Melbourne this week indicates he is likely to make himself available for the same nation when golf marks its return to the Olympics in 2016.
Ulsterman McDowell is entitled to choose between competing for Ireland or Great Britain - which includes athletes from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales - at the Rio Games.
Like fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, McDowell has been reluctant to commit to either team due to the political ramifications of such a choice and has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide for him.
"It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years because it is very difficult to pick a side because you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side really," McDowell, who teamed up with McIlroy at two previous World Cups, told reporters at Royal Melbourne golf club on Wednesday.
"From my point of view, when the World Cup came back on the schedule and it was coming to Royal Melbourne, I knew that I wanted to be part of this team, we have always represented Ireland when it has come to the World Cup.
"So I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, you know, with the Olympic regulations, will mean that I am - I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016... if good enough, if eligible, if fit enough, et cetera, et cetera."
Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson has expressed sympathy for the Northern Irishmen's dilemma, and said earlier this year that he hoped the burden of choice could be taken away from them.
He also suggested McIlroy's representation of Ireland at the World Cup could possibly preclude him from playing for Team GB at the Games when golf returns to the Olympic fold after a 112-year absence.
McDowell appeared confident the issue was settled.
"Part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision," added McDowell, who will team up with Ireland's Shane Lowry at Royal Melbourne.
"It certainly did not enter into my reasons to wanting to be here this week. I wanted to be here and play with Shane, around Royal Melbourne, in a golf tournament which I have always loved." (Reuters)
TOGETHER AGAIN: Chris Wood and Danny Willett will play for England at the World Cup, the first time as professionals.
"We played together as amateurs, we roomed together a little bit, we were in the same squads growing up so it is great for the English golfing as well to see us representing England as professionals," Wood said.
Wood has lost count of his recent big stretch of play — "I think this is my seventh or eighth event in eight or nine weeks, so we have all been on a long run so everyone is feeling a little bit tired."
And his chronic back problems seemed to have subsided.
"It has been great since July, I do not have an issue," he said. "So I have changed a lot of what I have been doing at home, the people I have been seeing so doing my own thing and it seems to be working." (AP)
OOSTHUIZEN SIDELINED: Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen will be out for two weeks after suffering a recurrence of a long-standing back problem, his management company said on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old South African has been told to rest after having cortisone injections.
"My back has been sore during the last few tournaments and it has been frustrating," Oosthuizen said in a news release.
"I'm hopeful the injections will free up the problem and enable it to go away completely."
The injury also kept 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen on the sidelines for two months earlier this season.
He is planning to return to the European Tour at the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City starting on December 5. (Reuters)