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Punch Shot: Bad call to end 18-hole U.S. Open playoffs?

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 7:56 pm

The USGA announced a major change to its playoff format on Monday. writers Rex Hoggard and Will Gray weigh in with their thoughts on the decision:

Hoggard: Big news today from the USGA. A few decades of tradition have been changed with officials announcing the playoff format for the U.S. Open will go from an 18-hole Monday finish to a two-hole aggregate playoff. Willy, there's a lot to unpack here. Thoughts?

Gray: I'm conflicted. This makes a ton of logistical sense, as it's in everyone's best interest to crown a winner Sunday night. But there's admittedly a part of me that will miss the occasional 18-hole Monday slog to decide the most grueling major. For something that popped up only about once per decade, I'm a little sad to see it kicked to the curb.

Hoggard: Spoken like a guy who never had to hang around for a Monday playoff at the U.S. Open. It is worth noting that the last Monday playoff at the Open was 2008, and we all know how historic and entertaining that was, but otherwise it leads to an anti-climactic finish in front of far fewer fans. Tiger v. Rocco was great, but the odds of that happening are always low.

Gray: Yes, there won't be any oral histories about Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks tangling at Southern Hills 17 years ago, but they can't all be instant classics. Can we at least agree that the move to a two-hole aggregate seems a bit ... random?

Hoggard: Random works. Odd may be a better way to describe. It seems the USGA tested the waters with the U.S. Women's Open, which went to a three-hole playoff a few years ago, and had some success. It seems the game's rules makers (R&A, USGA, PGA of America, Augusta National) would consider some sort of uniform answer instead of everybody doing their own thing. Three-hole playoffs just feel right.

Gray: I agree that of the four options, I like three-hole the best (kudos, PGA of America). A single good shot holds a ton of weight, but a single bad shot won't necessarily end the tournament. Goldilocks style. But it does seem like the USGA surveyed the landscape, saw that one-, three-, and four-hole playoff options were already taken, and went for door No. 4.

But given that USGA exec Mike Davis said as recently as June that the playoff format wouldn't change on his watch, are you surprised that they made the change?

Hoggard: Strange, indeed, but then it's been a busy few days for Davis (see last week's dinner with Jack Nicklaus), so maybe he was distracted. I will say that although I'm a fan of moving away from the 18-hole playoff, social media is curiously filled with folks who, like you, enjoy their blazers blue and their playoffs of the 18-hole variety. Odd that in this day of instant media this is so popular.

Gray: It was unique! Here I am thinking brand differentiation is a positive. Alas.

Hoggard: You have an old soul, young Will. I will also point out that a lot of this will depend on what two holes the USGA uses for the playoff. With par being such an important number at the U.S. Open, this could quickly fade into a blur of fairways, greens and uninspired golf.

Gray: Yes, but remember this is the U.S. Open we're talking about – the only major championship where par is malleable. Perhaps the dream scenario is just to play a par-9 couplet for the title.

Hoggard: Here's my worry: the final two holes at Shinnecock Hills, site of this year's championship, go par 3, par 4, and they likely would be the playoff stops. Not a lot of room for separation there. The Players seems to have gotten it right with a three-hole overtime on Nos. 16, 17 and 18, which give you the best chance for two-way traffic.

Gray: It's a valid point that course routing would have a big role in dictating the best possible option. Hard to think that a par 3 as one of only two playoff holes is ideal, but I think back to Chambers Bay and recall that Nos. 1 and 18 running side-by-side would have made for a pretty sweet scene. That three-hole run at TPC Sawgrass works on a variety of fronts.

But the 18-hole option is gone now, for better or worse. Does that mean that (gasp) the Masters and its sudden-death format is the worst of the four major playoff options – or at least the most arbitrary?

Hoggard: It is certainly the least-imaginative, but then when it comes to the Masters you could probably have a "putt off" on the 18th green and it would still be entertaining. Augusta National would be the perfect place for a two-hole playoff, No. 18 first and then the 10th.

Gray: An Amen Corner playoff remains the dream, even if the sunlight of early April won't allow it. Build some floodlights behind the 13th green, I say. But back to the original topic, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out. You and I have both certainly felt the media center tremors that the U.S. Open is overdue for the p-word, meaning that we're sure to get one this summer.

Hoggard: No chance we don't get a playoff this year and you and I both will be over the moon when it finishes Sunday. We can talk about how cool the old format was on the plane ride home on Monday. Kudos, USGA.

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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.”