QA with John Mahaffey

By Casey BiererFebruary 22, 2008, 5:00 pm

Editors Note: John Mahaffey turned professional in 1971 and recorded 10 victories during his regular PGA TOUR career including the 1978 PGA Championship and the 1986 Tournament Players Championship (now THE PLAYERS Championship). John joined the Champions Tour in 1998 and won the Southwestern Bell Dominion the following year. Born in Kerrville, Texas, John was the 1970 NCAA champion while at the University of Houston. John Mahaffey played on two World Cup teams (1978 and 1979 ' medalist in 1978) and was a member of the 1979 Ryder Cup team. John can be seen regularly on the Golf Channel where he works as an analyst on the Champions Tour.
A Conversation with John Mahaffey
Casey / Q:
John, how do you define an approach shot?

John / A:
I think its anywhere from 150 yards and in. But it would also depend on what the hole is. If its your second shot on a par-5, then thats an approach shot as well. A tee shot on a par-3? Is that an approach shot? I guess technically it is although I dont really think most people think of it in those terms. There are a lot of ways to define an approach shot but clearly it means a shot in to the green.
Casey / Q:
How do you rate the importance of the approach shot?

John / A:
The approach shot is absolutely critical in terms of scoring. And thats one of the things that Mr. Hogan talked to me a lot about when I first started. He taught me that you have to learn how to play your misses. You play the smart shot in to the greens. In other words, if the pin is on the left side of the green you should try to hit a draw to the flag using the slope of the green to help work the ball close to the hole. This way, if you happen to not draw it like you wanted to, you still have a 20-footer and youre not going to make worse than par. If you do draw it like you wanted to, youll have a nice putt at birdie. But you dont try to hit some crazy shot right at the flag, not pull it off, and end up in the water.
Casey / Q:
And with the pin on the right side?

John / A:
Just the opposite. If the pin is on the right side of the green you should try and hit a fade in there. But, dont overcook it. If you miss, miss to the center of the green. If the pin is up front you dont want to go long because chances are youll have a tough downhill putt. And if the pin is back, take a little more club, maybe hit the ball a little lower and let it skip back there. If you pull the shot off just like you want youll end up with a nice putt at birdie. But if the ball checks up short youll still be in the middle of the green and you wont make any worse score than par. Its one of the most valuable lessons Mr. Hogan taught me; par is a pretty good score.
Casey / Q:
Whats your take on working the ball? We dont seem to see as much of that out on TOUR these days.

John / A:
I think its all in how you grew up playing the game. The younger guys now are used to the ball flying straighter. They are more inclined to take dead aim at the flag because the ball doesnt move as much as it used to. I learned to play at a different time. A time when the ball curved a lot more than it does today. I grew up playing with Mr. Hogan, with Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino. These guys worked the ball a ton. They moved it all over the golf course: left to right, right to left, high, lowand thats how I learned how to play golf as well.

Casey / Q:
This is an equipment factor your think?

John / A:
Yes it is. Actually, its harder for me to play with the new equipment that is available today. I mean, I get the ball up in the air easier today because of the advanced aerodynamics of the ball and how low the center of gravity is and how well the perimeter weighting works. For me personally, as equipment advanced, I felt like I had to learn how to play all over again. In order to keep the ball down I had to strengthen the lofts on all my clubs by about a full club. So, the game today is different than it was when I was playing in my prime. I think we worked the ball in to the hole more with our approach shots than players do today. But, its not a case of better or worse, its just different.
Casey / Q:
When you won your PGA Championship, what about your approach shots worked well for you?

John / A:
I stuck a lot of short irons close the last three days of that tournament. The first day I shot a 75 so I wasnt really hitting any of my approach shots close. I just made the cut really with even par or something like that going in to the weekend. But on the weekend I played really well. I think I shot 68 and 66, something like that (75-67-68-66). I cant really remember all the numbers but I do remember I shot 8 under for the tournament which tied for the lead and then luckily, I won the playoff. But, I do remember that on the weekend especially, I hit a lot of wedges close, a lot of nine irons close. I know I hit a 9-iron for my second shot in the playoff against Jerry Pate and Tom Watson on the second hole and I stuck it about 10-feet left of the hole and I was lucky enough to drain that putt.
Casey / Q:
Well, you must have been pretty sharp or you wouldnt have been in a position to win.

John / A:
Overall, my short iron approach shots were pretty darn sharp that week and that put me in position to make birdies and score. And I was very conscious of those early lessons I learned from Mr. Hogan in terms of approach shot strategy. Play away from some of the tightly tucked pins, make solid pars when the pins were in tough places, attack pins with approach shots where the pins allowed for that. These are things that amateurs would benefit from if they incorporated it in to their own games.
Casey / Q:
How did you configure your wedges when you were playing on the regular TOUR?

John / A:
I always had two kinds of sand wedges. At the time I was in my prime we didnt really see a 60-degree wedge out there. 57-degrees was pretty much the most loft we played with. But I always had a wedge with a lot bounce and then I had a wedge with very little bounce. If we had really heavy sand at a tournament where the ball tended to sit down I would use the wedge that had bounce. If the bunkers were more hard packed I would go with the wedge that had almost no bounce.
Casey / Q:
Where do you see amateurs going wrong most of the time regarding their approach shots?

John / A:
I think amateurs make their mistake more often than not because they get wrapped up in how far they can hit a certain club on their approach in to the green. They think a 7-iron should go a certain distance, or a 5-iron, or a wedgeand in my opinion they are almost always taking too little club which forces them to have to hit the ball too hard. I run in to this all the time at pro-ams. The amateur will ask me, Hey pro, what did you hit on this par-3? And Ill say, Well, I hit a little 6-iron. And the amateur puffs out his chest and says, Wow, I hit a 9-iron. Im really long with my irons. Now, yes, I was on the back tee so I had a little bit of a longer shot but guess what? I made a nice controlled golf swing and hit the ball to 8 feet and the amateur yanked the ball left 40 feet because he came out of his shoes to hit the shorter club. Ive got a nice little putt at birdie and the amateur will be lucky if he can 2-putt and make a par. More often than not, actually, hell 3-putt and walk off the green shaking his head and wondering what went wrong.

Casey / Q:
Im laughing because you have described my game so well.

John / A:
Well, tell me, whats the better approach? Another one of Mr. Hogans lessons to me; its not how far you hit a club its how close to the hole you can hit a club. So as I watch amateurs play golf I think thats one of their biggest faults. They are almost always a club short. The next time you play, Casey, hit more club in to the green and tell me if it helped you score better. Deal?
Casey / :Q
Deal. Since were fortunate enough to have you in a giving advice mood, what else should amateurs be thinking about out there?

John / A:
Always play the smartest shot you can. Dont try and be the hero. Amateurs will often make a very big number on a hole because they tried to pull off an impossible hero shot. They rarely pull it off and a big number results. If youre in trouble, hit out safely to a good position so that you have a reasonable chance to make a good approach and maybe make your par but at worst youll make bogie. But you wont have shot yourself out of a potentially good round of golf. If you hit a bad drive, there is nothing wrong with putting yourself back in good position for your third shot, hitting your approach to the green close and making a bogie. OK, so you might make bogie but you can recover from bogie. You start making doubles and triples or worse, you cant recover from that. So, play the smart shot and play within yourself on approach shots and I think youll see your scores go down.
Casey / Q:
John, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I for one will take what youve said to heart, try it on the course, and Ill give you a call and let you know how it works.

John / A:
Well, it was my pleasure, Casey. I hope what weve discussed today helps some people out there.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer

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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.”