Lincicome gets redemption with fiancé in attendance

By Randall MellApril 6, 2015, 4:09 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – You can take a ride on Frank Sinatra Drive, Gene Autry Trail and Bob Hope Drive before turning down Dinah Shore Drive to get to the main gate to Mission Hills Country Club.

To win the ANA Inspiration, you leave the 17th green and pretty much merge onto Brittany Lincicome Way.

That’s what they ought to call the 18th fairway here.

Lincicome, 29, played like she owned the hole Sunday winning the ANA Inspiration.

Six years after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship here with an eagle at the final hole of regulation, Lincicome closed spectacularly with another eagle. She sent a roar across the Coachella Valley again Sunday, this time with the eagle getting her into a playoff with Stacy Lewis, a playoff Lincicome won with a par on the third extra hole.

Of course, Lincicome closed it out on the 18th hole. She played the hole four times in a row before coming away with the victory.

“I'm standing here, physically shaking like a leaf still,” Lincicome said after. “It’s over, and I'm still shaking.”

It is Lincicome’s sixth LPGA title, her first in nearly four years.

She prevailed on a wild day of ebb and flow, of unexpected twists and turns.

Lewis and Sei Young Kim traded a staggering five two-shot swings in the final pairing, four in a row on the back nine. They kept trading blows, taking turns with the lead.

“It was a crazy day,” Lewis said. “It was all over the place.”

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Morgan Pressel delivered a big shot at the end, nearly holing out for eagle from 99 yards in the fairway at the final hole. She would have been tied for the lead and been in that playoff had her ball found the cup, instead of checking up inches away. She tapped in for a birdie that left her one shot back.

Lincicome delivered the biggest shot of all.

Two shots behind Lewis at the 18th tee at the end of regulation, Lincicome bombed her drive down the middle. From there, she carved a 5-iron from 190 yards to a flagstick tucked back, right. She watched with chills as the ball fed off the slope there to within 10 feet of the flag, to the same hole location she played to when she made that winning eagle in ’09.

“It's just a perfect hole,” Lincicome said. “You land it on the front, it takes that little slope, and I don't think my ball knows anything else other than that, to do. It's done it twice now, so it's pretty incredible.”

Back in ’09, Lincicome hit a grip hybrid from 190 yards to that pin.

There was déjà vu for Lincicome in winning on Easter. The last time this championship’s finish fell on Easter Sunday was ’09 when Lincicome won.

It was sweet redemption for Lincicome, who had a chance to win the LPGA Championship late last summer. Lincicome was two shots up on Inbee Park in Rochester with two holes to play and got beat by Park in a playoff.

“I hadn't been in that position in so long,” Lincicome said. “I just wasn't playing that great. So I just took from that that it was nice to be in contention again. It was nice to have a chance to win a golf tournament again. Just didn't let it get to me.”

There was something special winning this championship with her fiancé watching.

Dewald Gouws teams with Lincicome as quite the power couple. He was the 2008 World Long Drive Championship runner-up. Lincicome is the LPGA’s longest hitter. She goes by the nickname “Bam Bam.”

After Lincicome lost to Park at the LPGA Championship, she left in Gouws consoling arms, back when they were dating, before they were engaged.

“I wanted to win for you babe,’” Gouws remembers her saying. “She said, `I’m sorry, I wanted to win with you there.’”

Lincicome didn’t just get to win with Gouws watching. She leaped into Poppie’s Pond with him, her father, Tom, and her caddie, Missy Pederson. “

“I couldn't have written it any better,” Lincicome said. “It's pretty incredible, A, that he was here, and B, that he got to jump in the pond with me. There are no words.”

Gouws said he was nervous Sunday watching Lincicome put herself right back in the fire, back in another playoff.

“I was shaking,” Gouws said.

Gouws, a strong, hulking fellow, was asked the last time he shook like that.

“When I asked her to marry me,” Gouws said.

That was last December, on a beach in Clearwater.

Gouws, who is from South Africa, didn’t know a whole lot about Lincicome when they first started dating. They met, fittingly, at the 2012 World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada. A friend, Trevor Consavage, introduced them.

Gouws never saw that first eagle Lincicome made. He didn’t even know about it until after he started dating Lincicome and Consavage Googled the shot and showed him a recording.

“I said, `Wow, she’s kind of a big deal,’” Gouws said. 

Lincicome’s an even bigger deal now.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

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Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.

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“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.