Notes: Part-timer Stricker thinking British Open?

By Doug FergusonJune 25, 2014, 12:15 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Steve Stricker hasn't booked his flight to the British Open, and he probably won't.

He's at least contemplating a return to golf's oldest championship.

''Ask me tomorrow, I could be going,'' Stricker said during the U.S. Open. ''Ask me another day, I could be going home. I'm leaning toward not going. I'm thinking about throwing in Greenbrier and then the John Deere. It's a long trip and I'm not too fired up about it. But then I look at it, and it's a major. And I should be going there.''

Stricker operates under a different set of rules these days. It's unfair to label him as an American who doesn't want to travel. He reached a stage in his career where he doesn't always travel inside his own country.

Feeling as though he owed it to his family to be at home more often, he drastically reduced his schedule last year and became a part-time player. He plays the John Deere Classic the week before the Open because it's the closest he has to a hometown event – and because he won it three years in a row.

Even so, there's part of him that sees a major championship going on and feels as if he belongs.

''When I watched on TV it was like, 'I should be there.' Then I look at it like I'm not a full-time guy on Tour and I shouldn't worry about. I play the things I want to play. My kids and wife might come to Greenbrier. They wouldn't come with me to the British.''

With a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open, Stricker has moved up to No. 124 in the FedEx Cup. He has never missed the Tour Championship since the FedEx Cup began, a streak that is almost certain to end. With only limited starts remaining – at least three, maybe four – he's not yet a lock to qualify for The Barclays.

And if he does make it into the playoffs, odds are against him staying very long.

''It's not a priority of mine,'' Stricker said. ''If I'm exempt for The Barclays, I'll probably play. But I do have an elk hunting trip I've scheduled.''

He was supposed to go last year, but when he was runner-up at the Deutsche Bank and tied for fourth in the BMW Championship, it was worth playing the Tour Championship for a shot at the $10 million bonus.

That won't be the case this time.

''Last year I missed out on it,'' he said of the hunting trip. ''This year, I'm going to be a part of that.''

EARLY START: The U.S. Women's Open has been held before the men's U.S. Open only three times, all of them in the South – 1996 and 2001 at Pine Needles, 1999 at Old Waverly in Mississippi.

Starting in 2018, the USGA will try to give the women a permanent spot on the schedule ahead of the men.

USGA Vice President Dan Burton said last week the 2018 Women's Open at Shoal Creek will precede the U.S. Open, with practice rounds starting on Memorial.

''Making this permanent change allows us to elevate the visibility of the Women's Open and provide optimum agronomic and playing conditions on a much broader variety of golf courses around the country,'' Burton said. ''We believe this will make our best championship in women's golf even better.''

The next three Women's Open will be in July in Pennsylvania (Lancaster CC), California (CordeValle) and New Jersey (Trump National).

This won't be the first time the USGA has tried to find a permanent spot on the calendar for the women. About a decade ago, it tried to hold it around Fourth of July. Among other things, it found that with families going to the beach or the mountains, it was difficult to find volunteers.

OPEN SPOTS: The Quicken Loans National, also known as the ''Return of Tiger Woods,'' also is a big week for major champions like Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy.

This is the first of three PGA Tour events that in effect serve as British Open qualifying.

The R&A has gone away from the 36-hole qualifier that it once staged in Dallas during the Texas swing in May. The leading four players from among the top 12 at Congressional who are not already exempt get into the Open, which is next month at Royal Liverpool.

Cabrera and Ogilvy have played every year since 2004.

The leading four among the top 12 from The Greenbrier Classic also get into the British Open, while only spot is held at the John Deere Classic.

On the European Tour, three spots are available from the Irish Open, French Open and Scottish Open. Edoardo Molinari, Matthew Baldwin and Danny Willett secured spots at Royal Liverpool last week in Ireland.

HER FAVORITE PLAYER: Lucy Li's favorite player is Webb Simpson, mainly because The Olympic Club is her favorite course and Simpson won the U.S. Open at Olympic. So it shouldn't be surprising that before the U.S. Women's Open began, the 11-year-old said her coolest moment was meeting Webb Simpson.

How they met is even better.

It was the opening round of the U.S. Open, and Simpson said there several kids outside the clubhouse wanting an autograph. He noticed one young girl with braces who stayed there, not holding out anything to be signed.

''I said, 'Do you need me to sign something?''' Simpson said Tuesday. ''She said, 'No, I'm playing in the tournament next week.'''

DIVOTS: Joe Ogilvie is sliding into retirement. His hope is to end his career at the Wyndham Championship. If he doesn't get a sponsor's exemption, he says his last event will be the Reno-Tahoe Open. The 40-year-old Ogilvie, with one PGA Tour win, is pursuing various business opportunities. He played his last U.S. Open and finished with consecutive double bogeys to miss the cut. ''Finishing double-double is par for my USGA career,'' he said. ... The bidding process has begun for the 2022 Ryder Cup in Europe. The most recent winner was France, which will host the 2018 matches. ... Four-time major champion Meg Mallon met with the USGA last week to explore the possibility of a U.S. Senior Women's Open. The USGA has a men's Open for players 50 and older. The only championship exclusively for women 50 and older is the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The field at the U.S. Women's Open averaged hitting 73 percent of the fairways, compared with 70 percent at the men's U.S. Open. But the men on average hit more greens (57 percent) than the women (55 percent).

FINAL WORD: ''I honestly believe the answer is no. And if the answer was yes, I'd still tell you no.'' - Padraig Harrington, on whether poor putting is a symptom of age.

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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.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.