Notes Sun-splashed ceremony kicks off Matches

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' The only thing missing was the bourbon.
Valhalla gave the Ryder Cup teams a warm Bluegrass welcome Thursday with the kind of pomp and circumstance normally reserved for the Kentucky Derby.
There were flyovers, marching bands, national anthems and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home during the sun-splashed opening ceremonies, as thousands turned out to kick off the biggest golf event in the states history.
The festivities also drew out the differences between chatty European captain Nick Faldo and more reserved U.S. captain Paul Azinger.
Faldo gave an expansive introduction of each player and cracked jokes during a lengthy speech in which he invoked everything from the Derby to Louisville native and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who made a visit to the course earlier in the day.
We may look like we floated in on a butterfly, but we are here to sting like a bee, Faldo said, borrowing one of Alis most memorable phrases.
Azinger, perhaps eager to get on with things as he tries to lead the United States to its first victory in nine years, couldnt help but give Faldo a little jab when he finally wrapped it up.
Id like to thank Nick for being brief, Azinger said with a chuckle.
The ceremony also included a gathering of some of the most notable captains in Cup history.
Ben Crenshaw, who captained the 1999 U.S. team and famously said he had a feeling before Sundays singles play that year even though the teams faced a hefty deficit, isnt making any kind of predictions this year.
Ive got a feeling weve got nothing to lose, Crenshaw said.
Jack Nicklaus, who designed Valhalla, and former European player and captain Tony Jacklin also spoke briefly about the 1969 Cup in which Nicklaus conceded a short putt to Jacklin on the 18th hole of their singles match, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history.
Nicklaus said he decided to tell Jacklin to pick it up out of respect for how Jacklins team played that week. Jacklin, however, was too stunned to think about the ramifications of the gesture at the time.
I was just relieved I didnt have to make it, he said.
Much has been made of Faldo only having one assistant captain in Jose Maria Olazabal, while Azinger can rely on Dave Stockton, Raymond Floyd and Olin Browne.
Faldo, though, has a few backups to help him keep an eye on the four matches.
Billy Foster, one of two caddies for Sergio Garcia, is at Valhalla as an extra hand and will scout some matches. The other helper was a surprise ' Martin Kaymer of Germany, who is ranked No. 43 in the world and nearly made the team.
I had an idea a while back, that I felt it was a great opportunity to bring some rookies here who just missed out on the team, Faldo said. I thought it would be a good experience for them to come and feel it. They literally will be right next to me. I havent given Martin a role, but could send him out with another match.
Jim Furyk skipped Thursday mornings final practice round to be with wife Tabitha when she was taken to a hospital with intense back pain.
Azinger said Tabitha Furyk has a bulging disk that has been bothering her for some time. Azinger said Furyk was having a hard time concentrating and left to join his wife.
She had a lot of discomfort in the back of her head kind of, nerves through a bulging disk and than can radiate, Azinger said. The word I got was that everything was fine; shes resting comfortably.
Azinger said Furyk has been hitting the ball well and didnt need to squeeze in a final few holes. Furyk returned to participate in the opening ceremonies on Thursday afternoon.
Alis surprise visit broke up a relatively quiet morning at Valhalla.
Ali showed up in a cart on the 10th tee just as the American team began its final day of practice.
His hands trembling from Parkinsons disease, the former heavyweight champ waved to the cheering gallery. Ali got out of the cart to pose with the U.S. team for a photo.
After the final group teed off, the 66-year-old Ali drove to the front nine and met with the European team.
Some of the Europeans were already on the second hole when the call came in that Ali was on the grounds. They quickly hopped on a golf cart and sped back to the first tee while the caddies stayed behind.
The visit choked up Faldo, who declined to talk about it afterward.
Dont start me again, Faldo said. Im about there with emotions this week, already. I need to get it out somewhere.
Ali was born in Louisville, and both teams toured the Muhammad Ali Center earlier in the week.
U.S. Ryder Cup rookie and noted big-hitter J.B. Holmes didnt miss a chance to show off on the practice tee.
Finishing his warmup Thursday, the Kentucky native grabbed his driver and pointed to the roof of the pavilion that was to host the opening ceremonies later in the day.
One mighty swing later, the ball clanged off the roof as the highly partisan crowd roared.
Holmes, however, wasnt the only one playing to the fans during the final day of practice. European team member Ian Poulter was so confident after hitting a short putt that he reached down to pick the ball out of the hole before it even dropped.
One problem: it didnt. The ball rolled around the cup and back out, and an exasperated Poulter feigned embarrassment while his teammates laughed. Poulter signed the ball and then threw it into the crowd, part of a competition between the teams to see who could sign the most autographs.
Felt black markers were in plentiful supply for both teams, a lesson the U.S. learned after the 2004 Cup at Oakland Hills. The teams agreed before the Cup that year to abstain from signing autographs, a deal the Europeans broke in an effort to curry favor with the U.S. crowd.
The Americans wont be able to blame a loss on having too many black-tie dinners.
For the first time, the PGA of America combined the welcome dinner (typically held Tuesday) with the black-tie gala dinner on Wednesday at the Kentucky Center in downtown Louisville.
So when the well-heeled VIPs took their seats for dinner, the players were in another room having dinner. Part of that was a response to last time in Ireland, when officials asked the guests to keep their space from the players, yet both teams were hounded by handshakes and autograph requests.
After the dinner, guests were invited into a theater where the players were introduced, and captains Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger answered questions from the emcee, NBC Sports anchor Dan Hicks.
Related Links:
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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.”