#AskLav: Giving awards before new season begins

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2013, 12:21 pm

Golf doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis, yet it appears we have little choice when reviewing the 2013 PGA Tour season.

The new campaign begins in 14 days. So, yes, it’s best to post this now, before it’s a season too late.

Here, then, is one man’s roll call of award winners:

Player of the Year: Tiger Woods

Honorable mention (in order throughout): Phil Mickelson; Adam Scott; Henrik Stenson

If this were a blind rsum award, it wouldn’t even be close: five wins (including two WGCs and The Players), money leader, Vardon Trophy winner, No. 2 in FedEx Cup. Here comes POY title No. 11.

Rookie of the Year: Jordan Spieth

Honorable mention: Russell Henley; Derek Ernst

Announcing the other nominees was just procedural. This is a no-brainer choice, with Spieth making the biggest splash by a rookie since Tiger in ’96.

Courage Award: Erik Compton

This new award likely will (and should) go to Compton. After all, he kept his card just five years removed from his second heart transplant. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Henrik Stenson

Honorable mention: Graham DeLaet

Oh, if only this award hadn’t been retired. Two years ago, the newly minted FedEx Cup winner had slumped to No. 230 in the world. An epic comeback, no?

Shot of the Year: Adam Scott, Masters

Honorable mention: Jordan Spieth holes out bunker shot at Deere; Jim Furyk wedge to set up 59; Patrick Reed from the trees at Wyndham

Both Scott putts were equally memorable: the ground-shaking birdie he made on the 72nd hole and the green jacket-clincher on the 10th hole. Maybe the nod goes to the playoff birdie, for that prevented the Masters from heading to a deflating Monday finish.

Tournament of the Year: Masters

Honorable mention: British Open; The Players; The Barclays

From women in green jackets to the slow-play penalty to Tiger’s drop to the Scott-Cabrera slugfest, this year’s Masters, like so many before it, did not disappoint. Scott’s popular victory, and brawny finish, helped erase what was largely a sleepy Sunday.

Breakout Player: Jordan Spieth

Honorable mention: Henrik Stenson; Billy Horschel; Roberto Castro

January: No status on any major tour, No. 810 in the world. Now: PGA Tour winner, Presidents Cup selection, No. 21 in the world. Breakout, indeed.

Knucklehead of the Year: Sergio Garcia

Honorable mention: Vijay Singh; ‘Baba booey!’ fans

In one month, he provoked Tiger on national TV, spectacularly kicked away a tournament, made a racially insensitive remark involving fried chicken and was the subject of jokes and criticism. One of the lasting images of 2013 – for this scribe at least – will be Garcia, walking down the fairway at Merion, while a fan screamed, “I ate the bones!”

Biggest Disappointment: Rory McIlroy

Honorable mention: Bubba Watson; Lee Westwood; Bud Cauley

Poor form, equipment and swing struggles, poor on-course comportment – add it all up, and it was a disastrous season for the former world No. 1. The only player in the top 35 in the world to gain fewer OWGR points than McIlroy (90.854) this year was Louis Oosthuizen (70.001), who spent months on the DL. Apart from a runner-up against a weak field in San Antonio, Rory was more or less a non-factor in 2013.

Biggest Non-Competition Story of the Year: Anchoring

Honorable mention: Deer antler spray; 2016 Olympics

Despite more pressing concerns – you know, like, slow play and out-of-control distance – the sport’s governing bodies decided instead to tackle the anchoring ban. A cursory glance at the putting stats suggests it was a war not worth waging. And it wasn’t the last move that the USGA bungled in 2013.

Player Most Likely to Win 2014 Major: Henrik Stenson

Honorable mention: Tiger Woods; Brandt Snedeker; Phil Mickelson

The Tour’s preeminent ball-striker could be the favorite at any of the four major venues, but he’d seem to set up particularly well for Royal Liverpool, host of the ’14 Open, and Augusta National, where, despite his poor record there (one round in the 60s in 26 attempts), he can rope that power 3-wood around the doglegs.

Early Favorite for 2014 Breakout Star: Keegan Bradley

Honorable mention: Jason Day; Harris English; Morgan Hoffmann

Picked Keegan to be the ’13 POY and, yeah, well, it just didn’t pan out. This massive talent had seven top 10s, including two runners-up, but didn’t win. So now we’re doubling down.

Your mailbag questions for this week:

Publicly, theyre all in favor of Tiger. No one is trying to become a headline here. But because the voting process is essentially anonymous among Tour members, their actual ballots may tell a different story, whether they truly believe there was a more deserving player in 2013, they want to see Phil rewarded for a career achievement, or perhaps theyre turned off by Tigers rules snafus. The Tour doesnt disclose vote totals, but the guess here is that it wont be all that close.

Expect a blowout. Be thankful for anything closer. On paper, at least, this matchup is woefully one-sided. The U.S. teams average world ranking is 13.58; the Internationals is 33.25. The Americans have eight players inside the top 15; the Internationals have only one, No. 2 Adam Scott. The Americans have won 16 titles on the PGA/European tours this season; the International team has combined to win only five times. The U.S. team has won the Presidents Cup by at least a four-point margin each of the past three matches, and it would surprise little if it was even more lopsided than that. Could become known as The Mauling at Muirfield Village.

Out of shape, certainly. And, um, is that a tobacco stain on your base?

Well, Ill be hard-pressed to ever top the trip the GolfChannel.com boys had pre-British Open. The weather was perfect, and we walked 108 holes in four days (126 in six). The best track? Its likely a three-way tie between Turnberry ' where, it should be noted, I went birdie-birdie-par to finish ' Western Gailes and North Berwick. Stunning, all of them.

Loyal readers of this mailbag will recall a few lengthy visits to the dentists office in recent months. Thus, the Stense knows Coke is off-limits for this guy.

Hey, Ive been on this bandwagon since Spieth was waxing kids in AJGA events, but lets not go overboard. Yes, he was the biggest climber in 2013, but he wasnt the best player. If hed closed out wins in Puerto Rico, Charlotte and Atlanta, OK, maybe. It was a great season, arguably the best ever for a rookie. And, sure, I guess it could be argued that he deserves some POY consideration. That argument just wouldnt have much merit.

Oooh, tough call. Id take the $10 million, and shirtless existence, but only after hiring a personal sun-blocker and sweat-blotter.

Yes, grudgingly, and I figure by 2017 I could probably become the mayor of Des Moines. First bill that would be passed, before the Solheim Cup rolled into town: making face painting a felony.

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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.