New Year New Questions

By Associated PressJanuary 4, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsThe grandstand surrounding the ninth green was packed, and it was only a quiet Monday afternoon at Kapalua, with no more than a dozen players on the Plantation Course.
Everyone anticipates a blockbuster season on the PGA Tour.
Vijay Singh starts the year at No. 1 for the first time in his career. Tiger Woods showed signs of recovering his game late last year, while Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen could make it crowded at the top.
Singh knows his nine-victory season that took him to No. 1 was old news when the calendar changed.
'Everybody is going to be starting level,' Singh said. 'You've just got to get in front as quick as possible and see if you can stay there. That's the way I've always thought, and hopefully I'm going to start that way again.'
And that leads to seven questions about the 2005 season:
What does Singh do for an encore?
Singh is curious how he will handle the expectations, although they won't be as great as when Woods tried to follow up on his nine-win season of 2000. Woods went 10 weeks at the start of the '01 season without winning and had to face questions about a slump. Then he won three straight, including the Masters for his fourth straight major.
Keep in mind that Singh won only one time through the Masters last year, and no one questioned his game. That won't be the case in 2005, and he can take a load of pressure off by winning at least once on the West Coast Swing.
Odds are against him winning nine times again, although if he plays the same schedule - his 29 starts last year matched his career-high - there is no reason he can't win a half-dozen times.
Was the end of the year a mirage for Tiger?
Woods gained renewed optimism by winning his final two tournaments of the year with a game that looked vaguely familiar. Still, no one will take the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan) or the Target World Challenge (silly season) too seriously. Still, it was enough to raise expectations.
Woods is playing two of the first three tournaments, and he might face more scrutiny than Singh.
The real test will be the majors. If Woods fails to win the Masters, it will be the longest stretch without a major in his career. Another question is whether Woods' cut streak (133 tournaments) can survive another year.
Will the majors haunt the Big Easy?
Els will remember 2004 as the year the majors got away - all four of them. He had three putts on the 72nd hole to either win or get into a playoff, and missed them all. He shot 80 in the final group at the U.S. Open.
He might have found the secret to getting sharp for the four biggest weeks of the year, but four close calls in one year creates a lot of scar tissue. The Masters is what he wants the most, only Els might be the next in a long line of players who felt Augusta National owed them one (Ken Venturi, Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman, David Duval).
His best bet might be the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, which should feel like a U.S. Open.
What will Phil do next?
That 8-inch vertical leap at Augusta National is the most vivid reminder that Mickelson no longer is hounded as the best player to never win a major. Coming within five shots of winning all four was a statement that Lefty has these majors all figured out.
Still, his magical year ended after the PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup was a disaster, and his 59 at the Grand Slam of Golf doesn't count. Memories being short, he'll probably have to prove himself again the first three months of the year to be considered a major force going into the Masters.
Will anyone in their 20s emerge as a legitimate star?
Assuming Woods is an old man at 29, golf still is searching for a player in his 20s to emerge as a rival for the next decade. Adam Scott became the youngest winner (23) of The Players Championship, but the best bet is Sergio Garcia. He already has won five times on tour and, unlike Scott, is becoming a regular contender in the majors.
Other possibilities are the English trio of Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Paul Casey. Charles Howell III is too young (25) to be forgotten. Even though he has won only one tournament, he has never finished lower than 33rd on the PGA Tour money list.
What about the old guys?
Tom Kite once advised Jay Haas to keep playing on the PGA Tour as long as he could, because once someone goes to the Champions Tour, it's hard to go back to regular golf. Haas has made the Tour Championship the last two years, and at 51 will be trying to make the Presidents Cup team.
Kite, meanwhile, is using a career-money exemption to return to the PGA Tour. But if he fails to compete, he might be a victim of his own advice.
Can Tim Finchem work magic on another TV deal?
No one will be pulling harder for Woods than the PGA Tour commissioner, who will start negotiating the next television contract this year. The last two times Finchem sat across from the networks were in 1997, when Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots, and in 2001, when Woods won the 'Tiger Slam' - four majors in a span of 294 days.
It's all about timing.
And the tour is positioned to provide some drama that will have everyone watching.
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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.”