Thoughts of critically injured friend steady Snedeker

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2012, 12:28 am

ATLANTA – They say money talks, but on a picture-perfect day at East Lake it wasn’t the $10 million FedEx Cup fortune, or Tour Championship title or even vindication for a Ryder Cup pick some questioned that steadied Brandt Snedeker.

For a player who admittedly wears his emotions for the world to judge it was just four letters that calmed him when the winds swirled and a world-class field closed in around him – T-U-C-K.

Photos: Tour Championship

McIlroy, Woods also earn big playoff paydays

Snedeker’s caddie Scott Vail had the letters written across his bucket hat, a tribute for Tucker Anderson, the son of Snedeker’s swing coach Todd Anderson, who was involved in a near-fatal car crash on Sept. 7 in Pensacola, Fla.

On Sunday morning before he set out for the most important loop of his professional life Snedeker drove the 12 miles from East Lake to the Shepard Center, where Tucker has been in a responsive coma and recovering since Tuesday. There was a fist bump, a wink, tears and more perspective than all the game’s sports psychologists could ever hope to dole out.

“I think it took Brandt’s mind off the golf to be honest with you,” Vail said. “I was glad he went. I definitely think it took his mind off the golf. It just puts things into perspective.”

With his head down and with one of his best driving performances of the year (seven of 14 fairways) Snedeker pulled clear of Justin Rose with a 9-footer for birdie at No. 3 and never looked up, or at a leaderboard, on his way to the ultimate double – the Tour Championship title and FedEx Cup neatly wrapped up with a closing 68.

A player who at times has made the game look difficult was turned Teflon by the clarity of perspective and a putter that, at least to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, made him a no-brainer pick.

Thanks to a hot putter, Snedeker made the turn two strokes clear despite a rinsed tee shot at the sixth that led to a double bogey. What else? He one-putted eight of his first 10 holes but it was a chip-in birdie at the 17th that secured his status as the newest member of the $10 million club.

His birdie on the penultimate hole lifted him four clear of Rose and not even the demons of missed opportunities past or the wrenching emotion of his visit earlier in the day could spoil that victory lap.

“It was tough to leave (Tucker) this morning. To know him as well as I do and to see him like that was hard. I cried when I left,” Snedeker said. “That’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”

As an added bonus, Snedeker’s command performance delivered a level of prearranged simplicity that had been missing from the finale in recent years. At fifth on the FedEx Cup points list entering the week all he needed to do was win and start figuring out how many ways one can split $10 million.

Not that the FedEx Cup waters were completely clear of muddy math when points leader Rory McIlroy played his first seven holes in 4 over. The possibility of a victory by Rose or Ryan Moore, who tied Snedeker for the lead with a 10-footer for birdie at the 15th hole, was enough to keep the Tour statisticians busy grinding out all manner of projections and scenarios, but Snedeker mercifully nixed the drama before it reached a confusing crescendo.

“He’s so mentally tough,” said Rose, who closed with 71, his first over-par card of the week, to finish alone in second place three strokes back. “To do what he did today is impressive. There’s a different kind of pressure playing for $10 million.”

Snedeker also had the benefit of a leaderboard that, outside of Moore, featured mostly one-way traffic – that is to say south.

Tiger Woods, second in the FedEx Cup points race to begin the week, played his first six holes on Sunday in 4 over. Some figured he blew his Tour Championship chances with a second-round 73, but that Sunday 72 didn’t exactly endear itself to the leaderboard.

“I fought very hard just to shoot what I shot on the last couple of days, but obviously it was not enough,” said Woods, whose tie for eighth was his worst showing at the finale since 2003. “I just didn’t have it this weekend.”

On Wednesday at East Lake Tour commissioner Tim Finchem figured next year’s move to a split-calendar schedule would bring a refreshing conclusion to the season. Thanks to Woods’ pedestrian playoff run it seems as if nearly all 2012 questions were answered.

Unless he adds a fall start, which seems unlikely, Woods will finish the season with three Tour victories and no majors, leaving McIlroy – four tilts and his second major – the clubhouse leader for the Player of the Year hardware.

Forgive the Ulsterman, however, if he left his first Tour Championship feeling a tad pencil-whipped.

When McIlroy bolted Crooked Stick following his second consecutive playoff victory he was 3,232 points clear of No. 2 Woods, and 3,357 ahead of Snedeker. Before he picked up his courtesy car in Atlanta that lead had been reset to 250 and 900, respectively. Let the record show McIlroy finished second in the FedEx Cup race – just 1,273 points back.

Call it the math of diminishing returns, but the world No. 1 took the high road following his round.

“It’s just the way it is,” said McIlroy, who tied for 10th in his first Tour Championship after a closing 74. “I’m not going to criticize the format. You have to play well every week.”

Snedeker, who finished runner-up at the playoff opener in New York and sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship, couldn’t agree more. The sixth-year Tour player has waited a long time for the patience and peace of mind to prove that he’s a world-class player.

A day that began with tears ended with previously unimaginable cheers, not to mention a hefty payday.

“Life is all about timing,” Snedeker smiled.

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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.