Open victory will give Watson another 10 years to play

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Tom Watson arrived at Turnberry knowing that his time at the British Open was running out. A recent change in the criteria meant former champions could no longer compete when they were older than 60.
 
Then again, a victory by the 59-year-old Watson would change that.
 
The age limit has been getting more attention as Watson has stayed atop the leaderboard this week at Turnberry, particularly given the nature of links golf that doesnt always require power to compete.
 
Watson prodded reporters by deferring questions to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson.
 
Then came an announcement Saturday night that began A point of clarification.
 
Turns out the Open exempts champions for 10 years, although it is listed this year only as champions from 1999-2008. R&A spokesman Malcolm Booth said that criteria still applies, no matter how old the champion is.
 
Watson, a two-time Masters champion, can play at Augusta National as long as he wants, but it likely wont be much longer. That course now is too long for him ' Watson shot 74-83 this year.
 
I dont want to be a ceremonial golfer, Watson said. When Peter Dawson called me to tell me about the 60-year age limit for the tournament, I said, Peter, I think thats a sensible decision. Youve got to let the younger kids play.
 
Even so, the British Open is different.
 
Being a ceremonial golfer is when you feel like you cant compete, Watson said earlier this week. Im a ceremonial golfer at Augusta, I can tell you that. I can still beat this golf course somehow.
 
The British Open returns next year to St. Andrews, the only course in Scotland where Watson has not won.
 

 
WATSONS CADDIE: Tiger Woods has a caddie who races cars. Tom Watson has one who runs political races.
 
Neil Oxman estimates hes run 650 campaigns over the years through his Philadelphia company, the Campaign Group. In his spare time, Ox travels around carrying Watsons bag in various tournaments.
 
We just have history together, said Oxman, who was a good friend of Bruce Edwards, the longtime caddie for Watson who died of Lou Gehrigs disease in 2004.
 
Oxman gained his caddie credentials working for various PGA Tour players to pay his way through college. He has been on the bag for Watson in about 50 tournaments and is in the first week of a summer run that will include the Senior British Open and the Senior U.S. Open.
 
He and Watson arent close in political philosophy ' he runs Democratic campaigns and Watson has conservative Republican views ' but they are close both on the course and off. On Saturday, they shed a tear together walking up to the 18th green when Watson told him that Edwards was watching over them.
 
Oxman didnt expect to be carrying the bag in the final group on Sunday in the Open, but he expects Watson to perform well under the pressure.
 
Hes just very good at managing himself in links golf, Oxman said. He thinks his way around the golf course.
 

 
BRYCE WAS RIGHT: Bryce Molder was on the verge of missing the cut Friday afternoon, one shot over the limit until making a 20-foot birdie on the 16th hole, then adding a birdie on the par-5 17th to make it with one shot to spare.
 
This was his first trip to the British Open, and Molder had every reason to be satisfied with playing all four days.
 
Apparently, he wasnt.
 
A 3-iron into 30 feet for birdie on the eighth hole turned him around, and he went on to the low score of the third round, a 3-under 67 that kept moving up the leaderboard. By the end of the day, Molder was tied for eighth at even-par 210, only four shots behind.
 
All he knew when he left the course was that he would be sleeping later and facing more nerves.
 
At least hes had some experience with the latter. Molder finished fourth at Congressional and was a runner-up in Memphis, two tournament that enabled him to qualify for the British Open.
 
Saturdays round was the 23rd time in his last 25 rounds that he has shot par or better.
 

 
WESTWOODS FOCUS: Lee Westwood got a taste of what it was like to play under increased scrutiny when he was paired with Tiger Woods and Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa in the first two rounds of the British Open.
 
He found out he liked it.
 
It was a good atmosphere playing out there with those two guys, Westwood said. They were great to play with. Unfortunately they didnt play as well as they probably would have liked. But it was a good grouping to be in the first couple of days.
 
Westwood found things had changed when he went to the first tee Saturday. There were only about five photographers there, not the dozens that trailed his pairing the first two days.
 
I thought they were there for me, but obviously not, he said.
 
Westwood, who will play with Ross Fisher in the next-to-last group Sunday, said being paired with Woods and Ishikawa helped him get on the leaderboard.
 
There was so much going on I needed to have almost 110 percent concentration, rather than the usual 100 percent, he said.
 

 
ELEMENTARY, DEAR HARRINGTON: Padraig Harrington has been working all year on retooling his swing, even though he won two majors last year, including a second successive British Open.
 
He feels if hes not working, hes not improving.
 
He wont be winning a third Claret Jug after a 76 in the third round put 13 shots out of the lead.
 
Tom Watson, the 54-hole leader at age 59, said one reason he can still compete is because of a long swing. And he believes thats what is hurting Harrington.
 
When I was a kid, my dad said, Shorten the swing, shorten the swing. Well, you shorten the swing, its hard to go longer once you shorten the swing, Watson said. And my old pro, Stan Thirsk, he said to me, Dont listen to your dad. When you get to be an old guy, that long swing will really do you well, because youll have that rhythm.
 
I look at Padraig Harrington right now, he shortened his swing, and I think hes having troubles because of it, Watson said. I liked the length of the swing last year, and now hes shortened the swing and hes having a hard time with it. You lose your rhythm when you shorten the swing.
 

 
DIVOTS: Tom Watson was asked if he was the George Foreman of golf, a reference to become an ancient champion. No, I dont name all my kids George. My kids have different names, he said. In another sign of the times, Watson was talking about the amount of text messages he has received this week when he stopped and shook his head. Isnt it amazing? he said. In 1975, there were about 15 press people after I won in the playoff. Here we are talking about text messages in 2009.
 
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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, Dominic 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.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.