Park comes back to top Lincicome in LPGA playoff

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2014, 1:15 am

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Inbee Park’s putter trumped Brittany Lincicome’s driver.

The old adage that you drive for show and putt for dough was powerfully on display Sunday during the final staging of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

With Lincicome overpowering Monroe Golf Club with her driver all week, Park successfully defended her title stealing the final scenes with the smallest club in the bag. Park won the way she always wins. She won making more clutch putts than everyone else.

Two shots down with two holes to play, Park ultimately prevailed in a sudden-death playoff, defeating Lincicome with a par on the first extra hole. It’s the fifth major championship title of her career, her fourth over the last two seasons.

“It definitely feels like a big honor, to actually put my name on the trophy twice, and obviously to defend my title,” Park said.

Park, 26, won her first LPGA Championship in a playoff last year. She beat Catriona Matthew at Locust Hill. She lost in a playoff last week, beaten by Mirim Lee at the Meijer Classic.

“It’s almost like I’m getting used to being in playoffs,” Park said. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs. I felt more comfortable.”

This farewell event, the last to be staged in the Rochester area after a 38-year run here, was bound to end in tears, but they were harder to wipe away for Lincicome, who seemed to have this championship in hand coming down the stretch. She gave the golf-loving fans here more golf than they expected, and more drama and bonus action than she would have liked.

“I just need to learn how to control the nerves a little bit more,” Lincicome said. “I was really, really nervous coming down the stretch, especially the 18th hole and then the playoff.”


Wegmans LPGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos


Sitting back in the 18th fairway at the end of regulation, Lincicome watched Park coolly hole a 12-foot putt to save par. Park wouldn’t go away on the back nine. She holed an 18-foot birdie at the 17th to pull within a shot.

In the end, Lincicome, 28, confessed nerves were a large factor in her bid to win her sixth LPGA title, her second major. She’s been winless for the last three years.

Needing a par at the 72nd hole to win, Lincicome slightly tugged a 6-iron just off the left side of the green, on the fringe, leaving herself a birdie putt of 30 feet. She made a poor stroke there, sending a groan through the bleachers when she left the putt 8 feet short, setting up her closing bogey.

“I was shaking like a leaf,” Lincicome said. “It’s hard to do anything when you’re shaking.”

It probably didn’t help that Lincicome had a long wait before she got to make that first putt at the 18th at the end of regulation. She had to wait for Suzann Pettersen to sort out a drop in the rough by the grandstand before she could play.

“It did take forever, but I think it was actually giving me time to kind of calm down,” Lincicome said. “I had my caddie go get me water, and I took a couple of sips, took some extra practice strokes. It was more just the lie. It was up against the collar of some thick rough. Most times, with those putts, you either blow it by, or you leave it way short. Unfortunately, I left it short.”

All week long, Lincicome shrunk the course, launching towering drives at every turn to take control of this event. In the end, her short game betrayed her.

The playoff came down to that.

Both Lincicome and Park missed the 18th green on the first extra hole. Park chipped out of some deep rough to 3 feet. Lincicome ran her chip 6 feet past the hole.

After Lincicome’s putt for par grazed the left edge of the cup, Park was a sure thing from 3 feet.

“Today, overall, I just felt so comfortable,” Park said. “I felt like it was just the third round, almost. I just felt no nerves.”

Park said her nerves kicked in before the playoff began, but she settled herself quickly.

“I flashed back to how I won last year in a playoff,” Park said.

Lincicome was nearly flawless with her driver Sunday, hitting every fairway she looked at with it. Her short game, though, was also an issue early on the back nine.

Three shots up at the 12th tee, one of the par 5s she had dominated all week, Lincicome hit her second shot into the grassy face above a front, greenside bunker. She barely popped her ball up over the face, leaving herself in light rough at green’s edge. She chunked a chip out of it, setting up a bogey. She was 12 under on the par 5s all week, and that was her only bogey at a par 5.

For Park, it was sweet winning another major after losing a two-shot lead on the back nine at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last month. It was sweet following up her terrific run in the majors last year with her first major championship title this year.

“I think this year was always going to be a tough year, after having such a great year last year, and trying to match that this year, and match the expectations I had last year,” Park said. “I feel like, so far this season, I've really handled myself well in this position. It feels like I've played some good golf.”

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.