A Leap for Major Champions Baby Steps for the LPGA

By Associated PressNovember 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
The LPGA Tour season might best be defined by leaps and bounds, although that's more literal than figurative.
Karrie Webb hit the best shot in women's golf this year -- maybe the best shot in all of golf -- when her pitching wedge from 116 yards on the final hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship landed a yard in front of the pin and crept into the cup, sending her into a playoff that she won.
Even more memorable was the raw emotion of Webb sprinting to caddie Mike Paterson and leaping into his arms.
'I think my heart just about jumped out of my chest, because it was aching for five minutes,' she said.
Ten weeks later, Se Ri Pak matched her in more ways than one. She won the LPGA Championship in a sudden-death playoff (over Webb), hitting a hybrid 4-iron from 201 yards that stopped 3 inches from the cup. After an uppercut, she also leapt into her caddie's arms.
'First time I jumped on the golf course,' Pak said.
How much of a leap forward the LPGA Tour made as an organization remains to be seen.
The start could not have been much worse. LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens picked an unnecessary fight with the media that led to a one-day boycott in Hawaii and strained her relationship with the people who publicize a tour in dire need of publicity.
It could not have ended much better, with a novel format at the ADT Championship that paid $1 million to a rookie from Paraguay who closed the deal at Trump International.
Along the way, there was a mixed bag of successes and failures:
The first three majors were decided in a playoff, which alone is compelling stuff. What added to the sizzle was the number of players who had a chance to win those majors in the final holes, including 16-year-old Michelle Wie at the Kraft Nabisco, LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.
Lost in Webb's magic at Rancho Mirage was coming from seven shots behind on the last day to match the largest comeback in the history of LPGA majors. And while the LPGA Championship came down to Webb and Pak, there were 10 other players separated by two shots on the back nine at Bulle Rock.
The U.S. Women's Open turned into a marathon between Annika Sorenstam and Pat Hurst, who played together the final 54 holes over two days. And while the playoff was a snoozer (Sorenstam won by four), the Swede ended a 10-year drought in the showcase event of women's golf.
Star Performance
Sorenstam's standards are so celestial that winning three times, including the U.S. Open, and finishing third on the LPGA Tour money list with nearly $2 million constitutes a bad year.
It's healthy for any sport to have a revolving door of stars, and Lorena Ochoa finally shoved aside Sorenstam. The question now is how long the 24-year-old Mexican stays there. Ochoa swept all the major awards with six victories, a 69.24 scoring average and more than $2.5 million to win the money title. The only thing missing was a major, and that could be around the corner.
Webb, meanwhile, won four times and went over $2 million for the first time in her career.
How's this for star power? Three major champions are Hall of Famers (Pak won't be inducted until next year).
The good news is that six rookies finished among the top 24 on the LPGA Tour money list, and Julieta Granada (No. 4) set a record for rookie earnings at more than $1.6 million.
But that figure was skewed by the $1 million payoff at the ADT Championship. And the rookies who had the best year were not the players getting all the attention at the start of the season.
Morgan Pressel had only one finish in the top three and failed to register a top 10 in any of the majors. Ai Miyazato had three good chances to win, but blew up in the final round each time, including the LPGA Championship. The best rookie was Seon-Hwa Lee.
Solheim Slump
They were the American faces of the future on the LPGA Tour after leading their team to victory in the Solheim Cup, but all of them -- Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Christina Kim -- were an afterthought this year.
Gulbis has never won on the LPGA Tour, and keeping that streak going was hardly newsworthy.
The surprise was Creamer, who was second on the money list as a rookie and vowed to replace Sorenstam at No. 1. But she piled up far more endorsements than victories, never contended in a major and her only consolation was becoming the first LPGA player to crack $1 million without winning.
World Ranking
The LPGA Tour finally released its world ranking, and two things happened.
First, there was outrage that Wie was ranked No. 3 despite having not won on the LPGA Tour. Then, everyone yawned.
The rankings began with a minimum requirement of 15 tournaments, which explained why Wie was listed so highly. They were tweaked in the summer to make it a minimum of 35 events, which is why Wie is now No. 10.
But there was never a debate about No. 1 (Sorenstam), and the rankings have so little relevance that even the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship did not rely exclusively on them.
Drug Testing
The LPGA Tour made headlines at the end of the year by announcing it would begin drug testing in 2008.
Ultimately, this is a good move to eliminate any questions about golfers using performance-enhancing drugs, even though there has never been any evidence. The peculiar part was the rush to make an announcement, especially since the LPGA does not know what it will test for or how it will test its players. It said details would follow, which smacks of grandstanding.
Business leaders typically do research first, develop a plan, then make an announcement.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

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.”