Meltdowns in majors are all different

By John HawkinsJuly 24, 2012, 3:00 pm

Jean Van de Velde’s 72nd-hole collapse at the 1999 British Open had a mythological quality to it, unfolding in the Scottish mist like one of those Charlie Chaplin movies from the 1920s. The lasting moments of regulation play at Carnoustie that day were defined more by comedy than tragedy. Van de Velde actually seemed to be posing for photographers when he hopped into the burn barefoot to contemplate his fourth shot.

Without question, it remains the most bizarre scene I have witnessed as a golf writer. A total unknown on the verge of the impossible, then booting it away in such a theatrical manner, all while sporting a mischievous smirk – it was almost as if Van de Velde were pulling off the biggest prank in sports history.

Adam Scott’s collapse at Royal Lytham obviously was very different: an established and decorated player on a far more playable course – even if he’d bogeyed Carnoustie’s 18th, Van de Velde would have won by two strokes at 4 over par. Scott needed four holes and the better part of an hour to blow his big lead, which made it seem more nerve-induced. Van de Velde’s folly took about 20 minutes and seemed more like a collision with reality.

Which collapse was worse: Van de Velde's or Scott's?

That said, the Frenchman holed a 6-footer for a triple bogey, which got him into a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard. Scott had a slightly longer par putt to force extra holes and missed. I’m not sure how you rank late meltdowns by guys about to win a major championship, but Scott, given the quality of his play through 14 holes and the variety of mistakes he made on the last four, was certainly the harder to watch.

There was a time or two when you might have wondered if Van de Velde truly wanted to win the tournament, as if he considered himself unworthy. Scott suddenly began laboring with his big advantage, much like Greg Norman did at the 1996 Masters, but that was a very different situation: a guy with a negative history playing alongside the only man who could possibly catch him – one of the wiliest and most strategtically sound competitors ever.

Norman’s six-shot lead was gone by the 12th tee. He was basically toast by the 13th green. The notion that Scott is Norman’s protégé and a fellow Australian doesn’t fly here; pressure doesn’t care about your nationality or background. Besides, the Shark was burdened by his past. Scott had no such scar tissue and performed like a champion until the 15th hole.

Watching Sunday’s gloomy homestretch with several thousand people on a live chat, what struck me was how the audience had barely shrunk a full hour after play ended. Most chat numbers take a serious hit after Tiger Woods finishes, or once the final outcome is official. This was golf-fan rubbernecking at its finest – people sticking around to absorb the ramifications of the accident, assess the damage and search for perspective.

You can’t give up a four-shot lead with four to play unless you make a series of errors, which Scott did, but it wasn’t until the 18th that he hit a bad tee shot. A poor approach and short miss for par at the 16th, then a dumbfounding blunder with an iron into the 17th, where he missed long and left – what began with a seemingly innocuous bogey at the 15th morphed into something very troublseome within two holes, at which point mental mistakes began amplifying Scott’s struggles.

The biggest occurred with the club selection on that 18th tee. Scott had hit an iron there the day before, leaving him well short of the bunkers and 173 yards in – probably a stock 8-iron for him. How on earth can caddie Steve Williams let his guy pull out a 3-wood and plant it in the face of one of those sand pits?

It made no sense, particularly when you consider how well Scott had hit his driver all week. If you’re playing for the win, go ahead and smash the big stick down there past the trouble and get yourself a wedge in. The 3-wood was the club most likely to bring a bogey into play, although it’s fair to say Scott was leaking too much oil for anything to come easily.

I don’t like giving caddies too much credit in victory, so I’ll avoid blaming Williams in defeat, but it was an illogical decision both men may live to rue. As ultra-gracious as Scott was after the collapse, I wasn’t surprised, having covered the kid from his early days as a Tour pro and dealing with him directly after several of his biggest wins.

He is as gentlemanly a guy as you’ll find, polite and courteous far beyond the norm, but there’s a part of me that wishes Scott had walked into the awards ceremony and busted something, forsaking his valor for the better part of dour. Blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to play at the British Open is supposed to hurt. There’s noting wrong with letting people see your pain.

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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.