Got $150 and a dream? Open is open to one and all

By Doug FergusonJune 4, 2013, 9:09 pm

Geoffrey Sisk is going back to the U.S. Open, an example of why this major championship truly is open to one and all.

In what looked like a marathon and felt like a sprint, the 48-year-old New Englander went from being a long shot to assuring himself of a tee time at the U.S. Open in just 20 days.

Sisk was among 18 players – the smallest group in more than a decade – who made it through 18 holes of local qualifying and then 36 holes of sectional qualifying to join Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the rest of the stars at Merion next week for the toughest test in golf.

The hard part for Sisk was just getting there. And it gets even more impressive.

This was the sixth time he has gone through both stages to qualify for the U.S. Open.

''I wish I wouldn't have, to be honest with you,'' Sisk said, while waiting to catch a train from New York to Boston.

The chuckle made it clear that he was actually glad that he paid the $150 fee to enter America's national championship. But it was another reminder how maddening this game can be.

Sisk has been a pro for 25 years. He made it to the PGA Tour only one time, for the 1999 season. He has been around long enough to have started on the Tour's developmental circuit when it was known as the Hogan Tour.

''There's part of me that says, 'This is great,''' Sisk said. ''The flip side is that if I can do this now – I performed well – why can't I do this on the other levels? I'm my own worst enemy sometimes. But I just try to do the best I can.''

There are other stories like Sisk's, as always.

Mackenzie Hughes didn't make it out of local qualifying – he was the first alternate. But a spot opened up for him at Old Warson in St. Louis, where he was among 42 players competing for two spots. Hughes went 72-70 and earned the final spot in a playoff. He was so flustered that, when interviewed by Golf Channel after his round, he forgot which state Merion was located in. He was on his way to Vancouver to play before the U.S. Open. Let's hope he finds his way.

Wil Collins and Ryan Nelson made it through both stages for the second time.

But six times?

''I think after going to Shinnecock (in 2004) and Oakmont (in 2007), I thought these golf courses were too tough for me,'' Sisk said. ''This year, I don't have any status on any tour. I'm not playing a lot of tournaments. So I spent the $150 to add a tournament to my very limited schedule. And I added a big one.''

Sisk shot a 68 at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass., to grab one of the five spots at his local qualifier. He signed up for the New York sectional because it was the closest one to home, and he had rounds of 68-69 at Old Oaks and Century to share medalist honors, making it with two shots to spare.

Most of his U.S. Open memories are from Shinnecock Hills, where he made his U.S. Open debut the year before Woods turned pro. He had played some in South Africa and remembered the tall, athletic kid with an easy swing. So when he saw Ernie Els in the hotel lobby – Els was the defending champion that year – he asked for a practice round.

''I'd had a few cocktails, I asked him, and he said, 'Sure, why don't we play.' Mark McNulty was going to join us,'' Sisk said. ''I'm at the putting green, and Ernie says, 'Sisky, you ready?' I said, 'Where's Mark?' And he said he wasn't there, along with a few choice words, and we were ready. Back then, I knew nothing about the U.S. Open. They had a starter on the tee who said, 'Now teeing off, Geoffrey Sisk and Ernie Els, the 1994 champion.

''All of a sudden it goes from two people around us to about 200 on the first tee,'' he said. ''I'd never played before so many people in my life.''

He made it back to Shinnecock in 2004 after both stages of qualifying and was enjoying one of his best Opens, just 5 over going into the final round. That's the year the course got away from the USGA, particularly the green on the par-3 seventh hole.

''I remember hearing a rumor that Kevin Stadler had lipped out a par putt from 2 feet on No. 7, and his ball went into a bunker,'' Sisk said. ''I hit a perfect shot that landed on a ledge and stayed on a ledge. A foot shorter, a foot longer, it would have been dead. I two-putted and never smiled so much over a par. I think I had four or five birdies that day and still shot 82.''

His next U.S. Open adventure could be a homecoming of sorts for Sisk, who played college golf at Temple until he graduated in 1987. But he doesn't see it that way. It was just another tournament to add to his schedule, another chance to test himself in a championship where he plays his best just to get in.

How many more times will he try? Perhaps a more significant question is what keeps a guy going when he's 48 and had made it to the big leagues just once?

''I always said I would stop playing competitive golf when I did the best I could, and things were going backward,'' he said.

The next stop is Merion, though he wasn't in a huge rush to get there. Keegan Bradley, the former PGA champion and another New Englander, sent him a text of congratulations and invited him to fill out a group on Sunday that includes Rickie Fowler.

While he made it back to the U.S. Open, Sisk knows it will be even tougher the next time. Only five years ago, more than 30 players made it through local and sectional. But golf is getting younger, deeper.

''Without a doubt, local qualifying is not easy nowadays,'' he said.

Nonetheless, it still has room for anyone with $150 and a dream.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.