Five Years Later Perks a Long Way from the Top

By Associated PressMay 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- His image hangs from a banner on the road into THE PLAYERS Championship, a courtesy extended only to winners. He will always have a locker in the corner room set aside for champions in the sprawling clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, right between Tiger Woods and Adam Scott.
More reassuring for Craig Perks than any of those status symbols is a DVD he keeps at home.
'I look at it when I get down to say, 'Hey, I did that. I'm THE PLAYERS champion. I won,'' Perks said.
It was five years ago, his only PGA TOUR victory, a finish that arguably remains the greatest in the 33-year history of this event.
Trailing by one shot, Perks chipped in for eagle from 20 feet on the 16th hole. Then came the scary island green on the par-3 17th, where Perks holed a 30-foot birdie putt. And right when it looked as though he was on the cusp of a choke, he chipped in for par on the final hole from 30 feet behind the green.
'You're unbelievable,' Woods told him that afternoon at the trophy presentation.
Unbelievable takes on a new meaning now.
Since that '02 victory at Sawgrass, the 40-year-old New Zealander has played 125 times on the PGA TOUR and made 39 cuts, with only two of those finishes in the top 10. The last one was a tie for fourth at Colonial four years ago.
He has played five times this year and has yet to break par, much less cash a check. Perks is coming off a season in which he finished 254th out of 263 who earned official money on the PGA TOUR. His lone payoff came at New Orleans, where he finished last.
He plugged in the DVD at the start of the season to give himself a boost.
Didn't work.
'I take a positive away from it, knowing I can do it,' Perks said. 'I know I can play well. I can compete with the best in the world. I just haven't done it.'
Time is running out.
This is the last year of his five-year exemption on the PGA TOUR and to THE PLAYERS Championship. He will always have status as a past champion, and likely can get sponsor exemptions as one of the nicest, classiest people around.
Perks has heard endless references to being a 'one-hit wonder,' and he might end up being the poster boy.
Shaun Micheel has not won since his PGA Championship in 2003, but he was runner-up at the PGA last year and reached the final of the World Match Play Championship last year in England. Paul Lawrie won the British Open at Carnoustie, then captured the Dunhill Links a few years later at St. Andrews. Ben Curtis won twice last year.
'I'm proud to be out here playing, and to have won the event I won,' Perks said. 'A lot of great players have never won at all. I'm not pushing to get that second victory, I'm pushing to get my game back in shape.'
There are few signs he is about to turn the corner.
It didn't help that he was in the same group as Woods the first two rounds at the Wachovia Championship last week, where his game was on display for some 5,000 people. Perks opened with an 80, and only a stellar short game kept his 76 in the second round from being worse.
'I was more embarrassed hitting those shots in front of Tiger than all the people,' Perks said. 'You become more focused. I was more focused than I've been in a month. It's a privilege to play with the best player in the world. I'm watching him to see what he does and trying to learn something from him.'
They were together again Tuesday for a practice round at THE PLAYERS. Woods didn't want to wait behind a few groups on No. 1, so he jumped ahead to the third hole, where he and Bubba Watson hooked up with a former PLAYERS champion.
'He's such a great guy,' Woods said. 'For him to struggle the way he's struggling, it pains you to watch, because you know the talent is there. You can see it. He's just struggling right now.'
Perks' biggest problem has been driving, and some observers have said he has the yips with the driver. He has hit so many wayward tee shots that he no longer knows where the next one is going.
So it had to be a little unsettling on the 14th hole at Sawgrass when Watson, who swings for the fence on every hole, unleashed a tee shot that took off like a rocket and gently faded toward the middle of the fairway, beyond the shelf where even long balls land.
Woods looked over at Perks.
'You want to go next?' Woods said to him.
The Kiwi smiled, waited his turn, then guided a tee shot some 40 yards behind Woods and twice that distance behind Watson.
Perks said he struggled with the sudden fame that came with winning THE PLAYERS, especially in that fashion. That's not unusual for any first-time winner. He had to cope with demands on his time, and he tried to become a player worthy of winning such an elite tournament. That's not unusual, either.
'I looked at the negative side of where I finished in 2002 -- ball-striking -- instead of the positive side, which was the money list,' said Perks, who was 34th on the money list that year. 'I made radical changes to be more consistent. I liked what I saw, I just couldn't get results out of it. I came back to knowing what I can do, instead of listening what I should do. And I lost confidence.'
He has gone through three swing coaches in the last five years. Now he's on his own, trying to learn from videotape taken from the range and videotape of 2002 at Sawgrass.
'It's just not coming out right now,' he said of his game.
His banner will always be on Champions Way. His nameplate will in the champions locker room.
The goal after this week will be to see it himself.
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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.”