Grace leads WGC-HSBC Champions by 1

By Doug FergusonNovember 5, 2015, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Rory McIlroy finally climbed out of bed 10 pounds lighter from a bout of food poisoning and made six birdies for a 68. Jordan Spieth returned from his longest break without touching his golf clubs. He also had six birdies in a round of 68. Both felt good about their start Thursday in the HSBC Champions.

It just wasn't enough to be anywhere near the lead.

Branden Grace of South Africa, a month removed from his sterling performance in the Presidents Cup, made birdie on half of his holes at soft, vulnerable Sheshan International for a 9-under 63. It was the lowest opening round in the 11-year history of this World Golf Championship.

And all that got him was a one-shot lead.

''Today was phenomenal out there,'' Grace said. ''Barely had a breath of wind out there and the golf course is playing probably as easy as it could be playing. There's some low scores out there. The guys are playing some great golf, and when you play on greens like this, it helps. You just have to get the ball on the right line and it goes in. It was fun.''

He made it sound simple, and the numbers backed him up.

The 78-man field produced 344 birdies and nine eagles, and it was a collective 189 under par.


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Kevin Kisner made his debut in China by playing bogey-free for a 64. He was joined by Steven Bowditch of Australia and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, who opened with five birdies in six holes and was 7 under through 10 holes. It was enough to make Olesen wonder how low he could go, though that ended when he made a sloppy bogey on the par-5 14th and he had to settle for a 64.

Dustin Johnson, who won the HSBC Champions the last time he was here two years ago, drilled a 3-wood over the water and onto the green at the par-5 second hole and made eagle that helped send him to a 65 along with Patrick Reed and Danny Willett, who is No. 2 in the Race to Dubai in his bid to track down McIlroy.

At least McIlroy is playing.

He spent most of the previous two days in bed trying to cope with food poisoning. His stomach was so sore and his body so stiff that he arrived earlier than usual to get loose on the range, and he wasn't sure what to expect when he teed it up at Sheshan for the first time in two years.

''Probably a little better than I was expecting out there, to be honest,'' McIlroy said. ''I had not been out of bed for basically 48 hours, so I was really stiff. But whenever I got out there, I felt pretty good. Thankfully, it was a decent start, and now going to try to just get into the tournament.''

Spieth wasn't sure what to expect, either.

He didn't see his golf clubs for two weeks after returning home from South Korea at the Presidents Cup, the end of a season that brought a Masters and U.S. Open, the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year award. Spieth showed some uncertainty with an extra waggle in his pre-shot routine as he tries to keep the club from getting shut.

For the most part, it worked out fine. The one big miss was his tee shot on the par-3 17th, so weak and to the right that it didn't even clear the hazard. Spieth recovered by going to the drop zone, hitting over the gorge to 5 feet and escaping with bogey. He also hit driver to 20 feet for a two-putt birdie on the reachable 16th, and two late birdies in his round brought him to 68.

''I hit some shots that looked like we were just continuing the end of the season,'' Spieth said. ''And I hit some that looked like I took some time off. It was a bit of both. All in all, I was very pleased. Obviously, I thought 4 under would be further up the leaderboard than it is, but there's a lot of guys playing solid golf right now.''

Spieth played with Watson, who hardly played at all since the Presidents Cup and said nothing felt comfortable. He celebrated his 37th birthday by opening with eight straight pars, picking up four birdies and keeping bogeys off his card.

Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the short grass, which added to the low scores. That led to a two-shot penalty for Adam Scott, however, who chipped to tap-in range on the par-3 sixth, only to look back and realize he might have been in the rough. That's a two-shot penalty, except that Scott was given the wrong ruling by being told to replay the shot. After a 30-minute discussion, officials found a decision based on equity that kept his score to a double bogey. It didn't help much. He shot 75.

At this rate, Johnson figures something around 20 under will win. Grace wasn't willing to guess on a winning score. For all those birdies, he still was barely in front.

''Long way to go,'' Grace said.

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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.”