A Glorious Swim

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2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Brittany Lincicomes father made his escape to the back of the 18th green and pressed his cell phone hard to his ear.
 
In the giddy aftermath of one of the most spectacular shots ever hit to win a major championship, Tom Lincicome stuck a finger in his uncovered ear to better hear his wife back at their home in Seminole, Fla. In the dizzying moments after his daughter made eagle to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship, he kept dialing until he made the connection.
 
Brittany Lincicome
Brittany Lincicome eagled the final hole to win her first major championship. (Getty Images
So what did you think of that? he coolly asked when his wife, Angie, finally answered.
 
Oh my God, she howled.
 
Lincicomes shot from 210 yards at the famed Dinah Shore Tournament Course finishing hole seemed other worldly given the pressure and nerves she said were nearly overwhelming in her bid to win her first major championship. She had 190 yards to carry the water in front of the green.
 
Setting up behind the ball with a grip hybrid, the equivalent of a 3-iron, she could barely steady the club before making her practice swings.
 
My hands are shaking, and my heart is racing, Lincicome said of the moment. Im trying to calm myself down by breathing or singing or whatever I can possibly do.
 
One of the longest hitters on tour, Lincicomes shot took a towering arc that seemed to go right through the heavens before nestling on a slope that funneled the ball straight at the pin.
 
My heart was pumping, too, but I wasnt going to let Brittany know that, said Tara Bateman, Lincicomes caddie. I knew she was nervous. Shes been talking about how shes been dealing with nervousness, but that shot was money right from the start.
 
Lincicome, 23, still had to make the 4-footer for eagle to avoid a three-way playoff with her closest friend, Kristy McPherson, and 11-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr. That wasnt any easier than Lincicomes long second shot into that final hole.
 
If I had to make anything further than (4 feet) . . . my hands were shaking so bad, I was almost crying, she said after making the traditional victory leap into Poppies Pond with her father and her caddie.
 
The ending was a fitting finish to a thrilling final round.
 
With a 3-under-par 69, Lincicome walked away at 9-under 279, claiming the $300,000 first-place check and her third LPGA victory.
 
It was the first time a major ended with Americans finishing 1-2-3 since Hilary Lunke, Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins finished that way at the 2003 U.S. Womens Open.
 
The day featured so many wild turns, it seemed destined to end with yet another.
 
Brittany was telling me at the turn, `Dude, Im going to have a heart attack, McPherson said. Anytime she was nervous, she came over to me to calm down.
 
Lincicome recently signed up to work with Vision 54 founders Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott to help her mental game. She said she sang Sugarland and Kenny Chesney songs with McPherson to steady her nerves.
 
It all helped Lincicome finish strong. She never led in that final round until rolling in her last putt.
 
Down by one shot to McPherson, who was seeking to make her first LPGA victory a major, Lincicome missed a 5-foot birdie chance at the 17th that would have pulled her into a tie for first place.
 
Still, Tom Lincicome felt good about the possibilities at the 18th. The tees were up to 485 yards at the par 5 finishing hole that has featured so many dramatic conclusions over the years.
 
As long as Brittany is, with the wind blowing at her back, I was thinking, `Here we go, green light special, Tom said.
 
Lincicome, who was second in driving distance for the week, slammed her drive 50 yards past McPherson to set up her final full shot.
 
Kerr, who also trailed McPherson by a shot going to the 72nd hole, finished strong despite some shaky play through the back nine. Kerr buried an 18-foot birdie at the final hole to tie McPherson, then waited to see what Lincicome would do. McPherson missed her 45-foot birdie chance there.
 
It was exciting, to say the least, Kerr said of the days thrust and parries and lead changes. Brittany, I think, made the least amount of mistakes and ended up hitting an amazing shot on 18 for eagle. Thats what it takes to win majors.
 
Trailing McPherson by a shot at days start, Kerr didnt take long to wrestle away the lead, making birdie at the second while McPherson made bogey. By the fifth hole, Kerr had built a three-shot lead, but she made a giant mistake on the back nine. At the 15th hole, she pulled her tee shot, apparently out of bounds, because she never found her ball. She made double bogey, which allowed McPherson to regain the lead.
 
Earlier in the week, my dad and caddie talked about how they were going to jump in (to Poppies Pond) if they had to, and every time they talked about it, it made me nervous, Lincicome said.
 
In the end, she felt all the days nerves wash away in a glorious swim.
 

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