Phillip Price Lives Out His Dream
He was the one European whose win Sunday was the most improbable. It was his win that ultimately won the whole danged Ryder Cup. I know all about Paul McGinley and the putt that meant the decisive half-point, but believe me ' it was Price beating Phil Mickelson that inspired the whole European team. He had it won about an hour before the numbers told the shocking story, and the lift to the Europeans ' and the jolt to the Americans ' were undeniable.
He just wouldnt let Mickelson beat him. He got 2-up, then 3-up, but no one really sweated it. Mickelson would come back, everyone assumed, but wasnt it nice that Price had put up such a game fight?
But by the time 13, then 14 rolled around, the incredible truth became apparent ' Mickelson was going to lose. The man who was 119th in the world was going to win. And not just eke out a victory ' Price was going to win decisively.
Phillip Price seemed to have an answer every time, said Mickelson, who didnt play all that badly in going down to defeat. Every time I knocked it close, he followed it up. He played great.
The Price-Mickelson match, unfortunately, didnt get much TV time. We didnt see much of the front nine when Price was erecting his 3-up lead. My only recollection of the action was when Mickelson gagged a three-footer somewhere on the front. Thats when I, and most everyone in the world, knew there was a good chance this point would not be in the American column. Forget Tiger ' it would all be over by the time his score was tallied. You knew something was amiss when you saw Mickelson's eyes after he missed that shorty. That something was Price.
It was the culmination of an entire life, a long series of ups and downs for the 35-year-old Welshman. He joined the European Tour at 23, but that was just out of desperation. He had to eat, and he had pretty well exhausted all avenues of doing so. Golf was his final alternative. He wasnt very good at it, but it was all he could do now. It was either do that, or go back home to Pontypridd, Wales, and serve out a lifetime in the steel mills.
That, incidentally, was what he did when he was 20. He sweated over hot trays containing steel bars. He would come home filthy with dirt. He tried a saner job, sticking addresses on envelopes, but that only paid him the equivalent of about $1.50 an hour. That, in short, was no option, he quickly discovered. He simply had to make a go of it in golf, a sport he had tinkered around with since childhood.
Price joined the European Tour at 23, and almost cashed out two years later. It was at the Dutch Open and he was struggling. Three holes remained and he was on verge of missing another cut. This was it ' he had reached the last option. It was back to the searing heat and filth of the steel mines, he had decided.
He sent his caddy up ahead to the clubhouse to line up transportation back to Wales. Price took just three clubs to finish the last three holes of the tournament. It really didnt matter, did it, that he might finish 120th or 130th or whatever? Finish the tournament and let me outta here.
So he finished, but he didnt leave. He thought about it those last 30 minutes as he played 16, 17 and finally 18. At the end, I decided to play some more golf because I wanted to keep my card and so have the choice of what to do the following year, Price told the European Tour website a couple of years ago. Then, a couple of weeks later, I finished fourth in the European Open.
That gave him his card the following year. And since then, he has lived the life of a true journeyman, showing flashes of brilliance but never reaching the upper levels reserved for golfs elite.
Then, 10 years later, he finally had his real moment in golf, defeating Mickelson in the Ryder Cup to put a stake in the heart of the Americans. It was oh-so-grand after his off year last year, a year in which a European writer had the temerity to ask, Do you think you should withdraw from the Ryder Cup?
The shy Welshman was hurt by the question. Making the team seemed so remote that day 10 years ago at the Dutch Open, and when it finally came via good play two years ago, Price was overwhelmed. Never, not in his wildest dreams, could he have conceived of such an honor.
Regardless of what he does in his career in the future, he has a memory that can never be taken away. Think he should withdraw from the Cup? How ridiculous! Phillip Price played the most meaningful role in his sides victory Sunday.
He experienced the steel mills, he experienced work at $1.50 an hour, and he experienced years of mediocre play. Then in one heroic weekend, it all came together. Price might have considered quitting golf, but he wouldnt consider quitting the team. And after all he has been though, come Sunday he was the hero.
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
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.”
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.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
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.
“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.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
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).
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.
Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF
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.
“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.