Notes: Valero Texas Open boasts strong field

By Doug FergusonApril 3, 2013, 12:12 am

HUMBLE, Texas – Ben Curtis won the Texas Open last year to secure a spot in the Masters, but it wasn't enough to get him into the Bridgestone Invitational, a 15-minute drive from where he lives in Ohio. The Texas Open had such a weak field that Curtis did not earn enough world ranking points for the winner to qualify for Firestone.

That won't be the case this year, and not just because Rory McIlroy – the No. 2 player in the world – made a last-minute decision to play.

Because of how the calendar falls, there were two weeks between Bay Hill and the Masters. And because of a deal that the Texas Open cannot end on Easter Sunday, it now occupies the final week before Augusta National. That spot had belonged to the Houston Open.

With so many players wanting one last tournament before going to the Masters, the Texas Open has attracted the likes of Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson, along with European Tour members Jamie Donaldson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, all of them in the top 50.

Curtis earned 24 ranking points for winning last year, the same amount for winners of opposite-field events. The winner this year is likely to earn in the neighborhood of 44 points, putting it on par with the Humana Challenge.

It debunked the theory of one agent who predicted both fields – the Houston Open and Texas Open – would suffer because of the date change.

The Houston Open was still attractive enough to get Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley (not to mention McIlroy). D.A. Points won the tournament and earned 56 points, an increase from 50 points a year ago. Even with the date change, the Houston Open attracted 27 players who already were in the Masters, comparable with previous years.

The Texas Open has 16 players who will be in the Masters. Not only is its field strong enough to send the winner to Firestone, he might qualify for another World Golf Championships, the HSBC in Shanghai at the start of the 2013-14 season.

There again will be two weeks between Bay Hill and the Masters next year, but with Easter Sunday the week after Augusta, the Houston Open will return to its normal spot a week before the Masters.


AMERICAN STREAK: Jonas Blixt of Sweden is becoming a footnote in history – the last foreign-born player to win on the PGA Tour.

Blixt won the Frys.com Open at CordeValle on Oct. 14. Since then, Americans have won all 16 official PGA Tour events, including 14 in a row to start the 2013 season. That matches the longest American streak to start the season since 1984. That run ended a week after the Masters when Nick Faldo won at Hilton Head.

As for the 16 in a row?

It's the longest streak of American winners since they won 17 straight in 2006. That streak began with Tiger Woods at the British Open (one week after John Senden won the John Deere Classic) and ended when K.J. Choi won at Innisbrook in the penultimate tournament on the official schedule.


RIGHT CALL, WRONG KIND OF GOLF: A trip to the Masters wasn't meant to be for Geoff Ogilvy, though not from a lack of effort.

Starting with the Humana Challenge, he played 10 tournaments out of 11 weeks in a bid to get into the top 50 in world rankings by the end of the Houston Open. The only week he missed was the Match Play Championship because he didn't qualify.

A question arose last week, after Ogilvy missed the cut for the fifth time this year, about whether he would have been better off not playing the last two weeks.

Turns out he made the right call.

If he had not played Bay Hill or the Houston Open, Ogilvy would have had only 50 tournaments count against his record and his average points would have been 2.31. He would have been projected at No. 50 in the world after Houston, instead of being projected at No. 53.

Ogilvy would have taken the risk, however, that no one would play well enough to move past him.

Henrik Stenson tied for second in the Houston Open. Marcel Siem won the Hassan Trophy on the European Tour. Both would have kept Ogilvy out of the top 50. In the case of Siem, he still didn't get in. The German was No. 51 by a 0.025 points average behind Russell Henley.


ONE LAST CHANCE: Marcel Siem of Germany narrowly missed out on the top 50 and his first trip to the Masters.

Now, he gets one more chance.

Tournament officials said Siem accepted a sponsor's exemption Monday to the Texas Open. While the cutoff for qualifying for the Masters through the world ranking was last week, all winners of PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points get a trip down Magnolia Lane.

Ever since the Masters renewed its criteria to take PGA Tour winners in 2007, only one player has won the last event before the Masters to get in – Johnson Wagner at the Houston Open in 2008.


GEORGIA CUP: A tradition that began in 1998 with Matt Kuchar as the winner resumes Thursday at The Golf Club of Georgia. U.S. Amateur champion Ben Fox faces British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland in the Georgia Cup.

The U.S. Amateur champion has an 8-7 edge in the series.

Kuchar won the inaugural competition in 1998 when he defeated Craig Watson. Over the years, the Georgia Cup has featured three future Ryder Cup players (Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Edoardo Molinari), along with Ricky Barnes, Matteo Manassero, Peter Uihlein and Graeme Storm.

Former Masters and U.S. Open champion Billy Casper will serve as honorary captain.

Fox, a senior at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, won the last two holes in regulation and then made an 18-foot birdie on the 37th hole to beat Michael Weaver last summer at Cherry Hills in the U.S. Amateur. Dunbar, who played on the Walker Cup team in 2011, beat Matthias Schwab of Austria in 36 holes to win the British Amateur at Royal Troon.


DIVOTS: In a classy gesture to the caddies whose players were in the pro-am, Houston Open tournament director Steve Timms gave each of them an envelope with a $100 bill for helping out with amateurs in the group. ... The PGA Tour has decided not to alter the points system for the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. It had been discussing whether to reduce the amount of points in playoff events to keep the volatility but reduce the award of those who can move too high with a second- or third-place finish. ... The Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation raised about $300,000 for local children's charities through the ''Furyk & Friends Celebrity Golf Classic.'' Among the players who took part were Steve Stricker, David Toms and Justin Leonard. Also playing were Reggie Jackson and Chipper Jones. The foundation has raised $800,000 for charities since it began in 2010.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The Houston Open was the seventh tournament out of 14 this year on the PGA Tour that had a round suspended because of weather. The last two tournaments were suspended by storms. The others were suspended because of snow, darkness, frost, fog and wind.


FINAL WORD: ''I've dreamed of this since I was a boy.'' - Wocheng Ye, the 12-year-old from China who became the youngest player to qualify for a European Tour event.

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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.”