Coming off a missed cut Villegas starts strong

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2009, 5:00 pm
2006 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO ' The shot was worthy of a much louder celebration.
Camilo Villegas was in a bind on his second hole of the Buick Invitational, hitting his tee shot to the right and leaving himself some 50 yards to the hole with a bunker limiting his view to the top portion of the flag. With a new 63-degree wedge, he hit a perfect flop toward his target and wound up with an eagle.
My caddie said, It went in. Early in the round, not much of a reaction, Villegas said.
There wasnt much of a crowd at Torrey Pines on Thursday, when Villegas tied his personal best with a 9-under 63 on the easier North Course to build a three-shot lead over Davis Love III and Aaron Baddeley. Across the way, Phil Mickelson patched together enough great par saves for a 70 on the South Course that put him in good shape.
One reason for the thin gallery was the absence of the four-time defending champion, Tiger Woods.
Now that might be reason for Villegas to celebrate.
The 27-year-old Colombian picked up his first PGA Tour victory last year in the BMW Championship, where Woods was the defending champion but unable to play because of his season-ending knee surgery. A week later, Villegas won in a playoff at the Tour Championship, where Woods also was the defending champion.
The Buick Invitational is the third straight PGA Tour event that Woods is not able to defend.
Is it any surprise to see Villegas name atop the leaderboard?
Its very early in the week, Villegas said. I mean, I played one round. I played great today.
Even so, this is one place none of the players particularly miss the worlds No. 1 player. Woods is the four-time defending champion of the Buick Invitational, with six victories in all, that doesnt include the U.S. Open he won last summer at Torrey Pines, a public course that he has turned into a private playground.
Im glad hes not here, Villegas said. He plays pretty good around here, I can tell you that.
Villegas didnt fare too badly himself, although it will take another round to sort out the real contenders. Few other courses have such a disparity in scoring'the South hosting a U.S. Open and stretching over 7,600 yards, the North a pedestrian 6,915 yards with hardly any rough to punish errant shots.
The average score on the North was 71.73, while the South played to an average of 75.37.
Thats where Villegas is headed on Friday, with rain that began falling late Thursday afternoon in the forecast the next two days. He realizes he could face thicker rough, firmer greens'and he doesnt seem the least bit bothered.
Who knows, man? he said. Just go out there and hit some shots.
British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington played in the same group with Villegas and tried to keep pace early, making three birdies on the opening four holes. But his round unraveled on the 17th hole, when he four-putted for double bogey and wound up with a 71.
Love hung with the Colombian, too, finishing with three birdies over the final five holes for a 66'same as Baddeley, playing alongside him. It was a good start for Love, who is No. 58 in the world ranking and needs to stay in the top 64 after next week at Pebble Beach to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
The ultimate goal'next to winning'is to get into the top 50 after March to qualify for the Masters. Thats a lot of math, but the only numbers Love cares about at the moment are what he puts on his scorecard.
Its hard not to watch it, but I know that if I continue to do the things Im doing, the ranking will keep continuing to improve, Love said. Im just going out and trying to play to win and not play to try to get to 58th. I just keep trying to work my way up.
Stuart Appleby was in the group at 68, but the names worth noting at 69 included Scott Sterling and Matthew Goggin, simply because they toiled on the South Course.
And there was Mickelson, of course, who was pleased to start with a 70 on the South.
He has a new driver this week'compared with his last start at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open, when he had no driver'but the putter is what saved his round, especially on the par-5 ninth hole at the end of his day.
Mickelson hit his driver off the fairway with hopes of running it up toward the green for a simple up-and-down for birdie, only to see it sail to the right and into the face of a bunker. He blasted out to another bunker by the green, again in a bad lie, did well to get it onto the putting surface 15 feet away, and he wound up with a par.
It wasnt the smartest play there, he said. I should have hit 3-wood down there and taken 6 out of play. But thats what happens. I was fortunate to walk away with par.

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    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

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    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”