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Rio Olympics 2 years away, golf officials start keeping track of who may be on teams

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HOYLAKE, England - If the world ranking looks just like this in two years, Adam Scott would be headed to Rio for the Olympics as the No. 1 player in the world and so would Roope Kakko of Finland at No. 287.

The ranking is certain to change next week, let alone two years from now.

But starting this week, the International Golf Federation will be publishing a weekly "Olympic ranking" to show movement as players try to make the team. The 60-player field for men and women will be based entirely on the world ranking, with the cutoff on July 11, 2016.

That depends, of course, on whether an eligible player agrees to participate.

Players from the top 15 are guaranteed a spot in the Rio games, provided there are no more than four players from each country. For the Americans, those four would include Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, while excluding the likes of Jim Furyk at No. 11 in the world.

After the top 15, the field will be filled with no more than two players from each country. One player from the host country (Brazil) is promised a spot, and players representing countries in the five continental units recognized by the International Olympic Committee must be there.

The 2016 Olympics are schedule for Aug. 5-21 in Rio. It will mark the return of golf for the first time since 2004.

Of greater concern is the golf course for the Olympics.

After what seems like endless delays, IGF vice-president Ty Votaw said sodding has begun, with a plan to use grass springs and sodding for the remaining holes.

"Our plan is to have all of the grassing completed by late October, early November of this year," Votaw said.

If the schedule is met — Votaw put the onus on the landowner-developer dedicating all resources necessary — he said that would give architect Gil Hanse and his team two full growing seasons for the grass to present what Votaw called "optimum conditions" for the Olympic competition.

Votaw said there would be a test event ahead of the Olympics, though he declined to say what it would be or when.

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THE DRAW: David Howell is in the first group at the British Open for the third time in his career, with one difference.

He gets to hit the opening shot.

"Thrilled," Howell said of his 6:25 a.m. tee time with former champion David Duval and Robert Karlsson said. "I played in the first group before. I'm not sure if I hit the first shot in Troon. However, at The Open there's always a chance you're going to get an early or late one. As early as that is, I don't think you'll find anyone complaining."

Howell was third to hit at Royal Troon in 1997 — his first Open — and second to hit at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.

For the full-field majors, the British Open is the only one that starts only off the first tee because of more than 16 hours of daylight available. The last group tees off at 4:06 p.m. — Christopher Rodgers, Scott Jamieson and An Byeong-Hun.

Howell figured he would have to set his alarm for 4 a.m. and cut his practice a bit short. He also saw at least one positive out of being in the first group.

"One of us at the end of the round is going to be leading," he said.

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OPEN ODDS: Justin Rose not only moved up to No. 3 in the world by winning the Scottish Open, he became a co-favourite to win the British Open.

Las Vegas-based Bovada has listed Rose and McIlroy as the joint favourites for Royal Liverpool at 14-to-1. They are followed by Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson — Nos. 1 and 2 in the world — at 16-to-1.

Tiger Woods is next at 18-to-1.

Woods is a three-time Open champion who won at Royal Liverpool in 2006. But he missed three months because of back surgery, and he missed the cut by four shots when he returned three weeks ago at Congressional.

U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and defending British Open champion Phil Mickelson were listed at 20-to-1. Masters champion Bubba Watson was 40-to-1.

Looking for a long shot? Look no further than Nick Faldo at 1,000-to-1.

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EAST VS. WEST: Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama are no strangers in the majors.

They were paired together in the U.S. Open last year at Merion, where Matsuyama tied for 10th. They were paired again in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where Spieth tied for 17th. And they will be in the same group again for the third time in the last six majors at the British Open.

Spieth started the 2013 without status and ended at No. 7 in the FedEx Cup, along with a spot on the Presidents Cup team. He ended last year at No. 22 in the world. Matsuyama turned pro last year and became the first rookie to win the money title on the Japan Golf Tour. He ended last year at No. 23.

Spieth, a runner-up at the Masters, now is No. 10. Matsuyama picked up his first PGA Tour victory at the Memorial and is No. 15.

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