Ernie Els looks for redemption at Kapalua

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2009, 5:00 pm
PGA TourKAPALUA, Hawaii ' Ernie Els holds a scoring record on the Plantation Course at Kapalua that will be tough to break, winning the Mercedes-Benz Championship five years ago at 31-under par for an eight-shot victory.
What he tries to forget was his last trip to Maui.
Needing only a birdie on the par-5 closing hole to force a playoff in 2005, he hit his tee shot so far to the right that it vanished into the native grasses and cost him the tournament. Even more painful is that he has not been back to Kapalua since then.
We dont want to talk about that, he said with easy laughter.
Els did not win another PGA Tour event until the Honda Classic last March, a stunning drought for someone of his caliber, a player who was No. 1 in the world, has won three majors and had won somewhere around the globe every year but one since 1991.
What went wrong?
Everyone knows about the blow to his psyche in 2004 when he had a chance to win all four majors and came away empty, followed by the knee injury while boating in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2005, and returning too early from surgery to repair torn ligaments.
But it goes beyond the golf.
Ive had a lot of things that Ive had to kind of put in place away from golf, Els said. Theres been a lot of things happen in our family. Thats been more important than anything else. You guys report on golf all the time. You dont report on the whole picture. So being I wouldnt say distracted, but taking care of more important things has taken my focus away a little bit.
Els didnt go into many details, but the biggest adjustment was going public last year with news that his son, Ben, has been diagnosed with autism. The South African has become a voice to find a cure for autism, and last year he moved his family from London to south Florida for the schooling.
At age 39, he is starting to feel at peace, in control and refreshed about the new year.

MORE FROM MAUI: The 2009 season begins on Thursday when Marc Turnesa, among the 33 tour winners who have gathered at Kapalua, hits the opening tee shot on a mountainous course that is unlike any they will see the rest of the year.
Els skipped some of the South African tournaments he typically plays in December, except for the South African Open, and he will package his global travels slightly to ease the wear-and-tear.
Even with a focus on so many young players'Anthony Kim, Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, Adam Scott'and the return of Tiger Woods sometime in the spring, Els wants to return to getting the most out of his talent.
I want to inch myself along, play each round, each tournament, he said. Ive got a lot of talent, and if I get all of this stuff together, things can start falling into place again.
His mood is helped by the company he keeps.
The only way to play at Kapalua is to win the previous year on the PGA Tour, which was not easy even when Woods skipped the final three months of the regular season with reconstructive knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open.
Only six players in the field were at the Mercedes-Benz Championship last year'defending champion Daniel Chopra, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, K.J. Choi, Boo Weekley and Zach Johnson.
Then again, four winners decided not to make the trip. Woods is still recovering from his knee surgery; Phil Mickelson stopped coming in 2002; Garcia (a past champion at Kapalua) had to skip because he lives in Spain and is playing next week in Abu Dhabi; and double major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland is in the middle of his winter break.
Those are the top four players in the world, which doesnt look good for a tour trying to put on its best face in a weakened economy. Even so, there is plenty of star power on the rugged coast of Maui.
Kenny Perry, who will play the first round with Els, is coming off a three-victory season while turning 48 and believes he has the talent to win eight more times in the next few years, which would take him to 20 wins for his career.
Singh is coming off his FedEx Cup title, a year in which his earnings topped $18 million. It will be a short-lived appearance in Hawaii for the big Fijian, who revealed that he tore the meniscus in his right knee and will have surgery next week that will keep him out for a month.
And while Woods was away, the focus shifted to youth'especially Kim and Villegas.
Kim broke Woods scoring record at the Wachovia Championship with a five-shot victory, then won Woods tournament with a 65 at Congressional in the AT&T National. He was sixth on the PGA Tour money list and moved up 63 spots to No. 12 in the world ranking.
Villegas took baby steps until bursting through with victories in the BMW Championship and Tour Championship'both won by Woods the previous year'to finish second in the FedEx Cup and move up 49 spots to No. 7 in the world.
The 23-year-old Kim faces the highest expectations, which is fine with him.
Ive always thought that I was able to achieve some pretty high, lofty goals, Kim said. I never thought it would be any other way. I thought one day it was going to happen, and it happens to be now. Hopefully, if I just stay on the right path, Ill have a pretty bright future.
Els remembers when he was part of the younger generation. He won the U.S. Open at 24, an era that included the arrival of Mickelson, Leonard and Darren Clarke.
Fifteen years ago, I was that age, and you come through and you want to run through walls, Els said.
Maybe he has enough energy left to run through them again.

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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.”