- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - NCAA and Olympic officials might want to pay close attention to two weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 this summer, when the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open are held on the same course.

It could be a blueprint for the next two years in how to set up a golf course.

The NCAA men’s and women’s golf championships in 2015 are being held at The Concession in Bradenton in back-to-back weeks, the first time they are being played on the same course in the same year. And then in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio, the men’s competition will be held ahead of the women.

“I believe we were in the middle of the bid process when it was announced by the USGA that they were planning to do back-to-back weeks for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open,” said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour executive overseeing golf’s return to the Olympics.

“The issues that present themselves in that, whether it’s obviously tee boxes, landing areas, even the positioning of grandstands in relation to tee boxes from a fan perspective, are all things that we are going to be following and looking at and learning from,” he said.

Votaw said the idea is to “make it a fair and good test” for men and women.

Meanwhile, the International Golf Federation is waiting for approval on eligibility for the Olympics. The IGF has proposed a 60-person field for 72 holes of stroke play, with the field determined by the world ranking. The top 15 in the world ranking at the cutoff would be guaranteed a spot, with a maximum of four from one country, and then no more than two from any country.

Votaw said the idea was to get the most number of nations involved, which would be 34 countries for the men and 33 for the women. He also said the proposal would include a golfer from the host nation if none is eligible from the ranking, and that athletes be represented from every Olympic continent.

Still to be determined is how the worldwide golf schedule will come together around the Olympics, which will run from Aug. 5-21.

The British Open and PGA Championship are likely to be played in July, with the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine to be held after the Olympics. That could lead to a scenario where a player who wins the PGA Championship - and perhaps even the British Open - is not eligible for the Olympics, depending on the qualifying cutoff for making an Olympic team.


GRADUATION DAY: Even though he is coming up on the one-year anniversary of turning pro, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan already has played in all four majors and every World Golf Championship. As a PGA Tour member, one tournament he looked forward to playing was the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

That will have to wait.

The 22-year-old Matsuyama headed home after Doral for a big occasion. He’s graduating from college.

Unlike Ryo Ishikawa, who turned pro as a teenager and played big events while working on a high school diploma, Matsuyama went to college and pursued his degree while competing against the world’s best. His field of study was social welfare.

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