Youth on the Rise in World Ranking
Woods must be getting older.
Youth, which at this moment is defined as anyone younger than the 31-year-old Woods, showed some promise over the last two weeks. Charles Howell III (27) shot 65 in the final round and beat Phil Mickelson in a playoff at Riviera, then Henrik Stenson (30) continued his torrid stretch by winning the Accenture Match Play Championship for his third victory in the last six months.
Stenson climbed to No. 5 in the world, tops among Europeans and the highest position ever by a Swede.
That caused consternation in some quarters, for Stenson does not seem like he belongs in any conversation about the ``Big Five.''
At least not yet.
Stenson isn't sure himself, especially when he listened to the names ahead of him and behind him - Woods, Jim Furyk, Mickelson, Adam Scott, Stenson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh.
His name doesn't stand out as glaringly as the lineup of major venues in 2000 (Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Valhalla), but he was asked nonetheless if he felt as though he belonged.
``I think I've just established myself within the top 20, and then just recently moved into the top 10,'' Stenson said. ``I mean, I can't say that I go straight out and say, 'I should be No. 5 or No. 6 in the world.' But obviously, that's where I am at the moment.''
And that wasn't a fluke.
Stenson might not be a household name in the United States (Memo to Americans: Golf is played in other parts of the world), but his record might be second only to Woods since September, with three victories and eight top-10s in his last 10 tournaments.
He won the BMW International Open in Germany to finish atop the European Ryder Cup standings. Three weeks ago, he went head-to-head with Els over four rounds at the Dubai Desert Classic to beat him by one stroke, with Woods another shot behind. And last week north of Tucson, he played 120 holes in five days to win his first World Golf Championship.
Stenson hit perhaps the most sensational shot of the tournament when his wedge from the hard pan (after taking a penalty drop from a cactus) spun back to 2 feet for par that enabled him to get through the quarterfinals. He showed his power on the decisive hole in the championship match against Ogilvy when he reached the 600-yard 17th hole in two shots, despite a slight breeze in his face.
So why is it so hard to wrap your arms around Stenson being No. 5?
For the same reason that Scott (26) seems slightly out of place at No. 4.
Stenson said as much when he was asked what to expect next. He didn't talk about No. 1 - that's not even in range for Furyk or Mickelson - but rather the four biggest weeks in golf's summer calendar.
``I wouldn't mind being the first Swede to win a major championship,'' he said. ``That's the two childhood dreams that I had - playing in the Ryder Cup and winning the British Open.''
He played in his first Ryder Cup last September, went 1-1-1 and got the distinction of holing the putt that clinched victory for Europe.
Winning a major might be a tad tougher.
``We've got the world's best out there for the majors, and we know a few of them sort of put subscriptions on the tournaments,'' he said with a smile. ``It's not obviously big chances that you're going to win, but you can just try and put yourself in position coming Sunday.''
The ``Big Five'' from two years ago consisted of Woods, Singh, Mickelson, Els and Goosen, all multiple major champions.
While this collection of youth from all corners of the globe is getting better, the real measure is majors. And of the eight players younger than Woods in the top 15, Ogilvy is the only one who has captured a Grand Slam event. Only two others, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, have even contended in the final round of a major.
Garcia (27) played in the final group twice in a major, most recently in the British Open last year at Hoylake. Donald (29) was tied for the lead with Woods at the PGA Championship last year and finished five shots behind.
Scott closed with a 67 last year at Medinah to tie for third, his best finish in a major, even though he was six shots behind. Stenson has only played in seven majors, and his best was a tie for 14th last year at the PGA Championship.
Trevor Immelman (27), No. 12 in the world, tied for fifth in the '05 Masters (eight shots behind Woods). Paul Casey (29) is No. 14 in the world whose best major moment was a tie for sixth in the 2004 Masters. He started that final round two shots out of the lead and closed with a 74.
Howell moved up to No. 15 in the world. He has never finished higher than a tie for 15th in the majors. His goal at the start of the year was to simply get into the Masters, his hometown event. He has yet to show any mettle in the four biggest events in golf, although his game has never looked better.
Howell and Lucas Glover are the only Americans under 30 who are among the top 50 in the world, and while that might sound troubling, it's time to stop looking at golf from a nationalistic perspective.
It is not the United States against Europe (except for a wonderful exhibition held every two years), nor is it the Americans against the rest of the world. Golf is a global game, and has been the past several years.
What every player of every age and of every nationality has in common is the pursuit of Tiger Woods.
Right now, no one is winning that race.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
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.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
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.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
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.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
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.”
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.”