Brittany Lincicome grabs early lead at Kraft Nabisco

By Associated PressApril 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Brittany Lincicome never saw a 66 coming in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
Likewise, defending champion Lorena Ochoa wasnt expecting to open with a 73 when she headed out onto the same desert course where she was 11 strokes better three years ago.
 
It was surreal, really, Lincicome said after taking the lead in the first LPGA major of the year Thursday with her 6-under 66 at Mission Hills.
 
Pushed along by playing partner Ji Young Oh in a round she likened to match play, Lincicome hit 16 greens in regulation. Oh hit 14 greens and was tied for second at 67 with Angela Stanford and Brittany Lang.
 
Lincicome, whose best finish in a major was a tie for second here two years ago, was thinking that something around par would have made for a good day.
 
If you would have told me that this morning I would have taken it and ran, she said about her 66. Obviously its a major, so its going to be playing long. The rough is going to be thick. Even par or 1 or 2 under I would have been completely satisfied.
 
While Lincicome and Oh fought it out, Ochoa struggled with her driver. The top-ranked Mexican star started on the 10th tee and was 2 under at the turn before carding three bogeys and no birdies on the front nine.
 
I got in trouble from the tee, said Ochoa, who had to save par after pushing her first drive of the morning to the left. When youre playing in a major championship, Im not so good in the morning. I think it was a good way to start a couple under. And then Im pretty upset that I didnt take advantage of that.
 
Ochoa hit only four fairways.
 
Three years ago, Ochoa opened with a 62 at Mission Hills to tie an LPGA major championship record.
 
Ochoa was impressed with the low scores.
 
I think its really good golf with the pin placement we had today, and I am surprised, she said. I think 3, 4 under is good, but I saw the 6s and thats very impressive.
 
Lincicome and Oh started on No. 10. Lincicome birdied Nos. 10, 11, 15 and 18, while Oh birdied 11, 14 and 18. Remarkably, they each went birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie after making the turn.
 
It was like match play, nine holes straight, Lincicome said. She would make a 30-footer for birdie and I would top it. I would make one and she would come on top of mine. So it was really just a fun day.
 
I was hitting the ball really well, keeping it in play, which has a been a little bit of a struggle lately, and then putting, I was making almost everything I looked at.
 
Stanford eagled the par-5 18th by hitting a 7-wood to 20 feet.
 
Kristy McPherson shot a 68. Tied for sixth at 69 were Ji-Hee Lee, Song-Hee Kim, Yani Tseng, Christina Kim, Katherine Hull and Jee Young Lee.
 
Tseng was the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2008. Just 19 at the time, she became the youngest player ever to win the LPGA Championship.
 
Michelle Wie, meanwhile, watched her 20-foot birdie putt roll into the cup on her final hole, pumped her fist and waved to the gallery.
 
After spending all day scrambling to save par around Mission Hills, Wie finished the opening round at 71 ' in a tie for 18th.
 
The way she was missing fairways, particularly early on, she could have been 4 or 5 strokes over. But her short game saved her and gave her confidence in her first appearance in this tournament in three years. Wie made several putts of 6 to 8 feet during her round of three birdies and two bogeys.
 
I feel very confident and grateful that they went in, Wie said after a birdie on the par-5 ninth. Hopefully, tomorrow theyll be for birdie.
 
Wie is back at Mission Hills for the first time since 2006, when she had a chance to win the Kraft Nabisco with a 25-foot eagle chip from just off the 18th green. It went 10 feet by the hole, and she missed the birdie putt to get into a playoff.
 
The 19-year-old Stanford sophomore, still seeking her first tour victory, is making her third start since earning her LPGA Tour card.
 
Wie was in the second pairing to go off on No. 10 Thursday morning and had to scramble from the start after missing her first three fairways.
 
It was a little sketchy in the beginning, but I felt confident with my putts, she said. You always get that same jittery feeling when you play in the majors.
 

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  • Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.