Punch Shot: Who will win the 117th U.S. Open?

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2017, 1:36 am

ERIN, Wis. - In advance of the final round of the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in on some pressing questions including who they think will take home the hardware Sunday evening.

Have the low scores damaged this U.S. Open?

HOGGARD: If 12 over par was leading the U.S. Open and players had spent the last three days searching for golf balls in the deep fescue rough and signing for bogeys, the blowback would be deafening and the players would be demanding answers. After the last two U.S. Opens, the USGA needed to avoid any miscues at all costs, and if record scoring is the result then so be it.

LAVNER: Not at all. There has been a lot of social-media chatter that this Open has devolved into a regular PGA Tour event, but this is the course that was presented. Having covered the 2011 U.S. Amateur here, Erin Hills is an absolute beast when it’s firm and fast. Unfortunately, heavy rain earlier this week made the course play much softer than the USGA could have ever hoped. No asterisk required here.

MELL: Not yet. We’ve got a final round to play, and a spectacular finish could completely change the way we remember this championship. Yeah, all the record scores already posted here don’t help the U.S. Open’s already black-and-blue reputation, but an unforgettable final act, with stiffening winds giving this course its proper defense, could be more than salve for the wounds.

GRAY: No. As multiple players have pointed out, the wide spread of scores is a testament to the legitimacy of Erin Hills as a major layout. Good shots get rewarded, while bad shots get punished. It’s no cake walk out there – if it was, the top three players in the world would still be around. And yes, it’s different from the “typical” U.S. Open experience, but Mike Davis and Co. have a decade’s worth of traditional setups coming our way. Embrace the change while we have it.


Player outside top 5 who will make a charge?

HOGGARD: Drawing inspiration from his U.S. Ryder Cup team uniform he donned for Saturday’s round, Patrick Reed went around Erin Hills in 65 strokes to move within four strokes of the lead. It will likely take something similar to that on Sunday for Reed to pull off the comeback, but if anyone can do it, Reed's the guy.

LAVNER: Patrick Reed. Coming off a 65, playing the tournament that he covets most, Captain America should have plenty of good vibes entering the final round. That he is the pursuer, not the frontrunner, will relieve some of the final-round pressure for a guy who surprisingly hasn’t been a factor in many majors.

MELL: Patrick Reed. Now that he may finally have figured out how to get his Captain America mojo going in a major, he looks dangerous. He looks like that Ryder Cup star we’ve been waiting to take over a major.

GRAY: Russell Henley. He might be overshadowed in his final-round pairing by Captain America Patrick Reed, but he has the potential to go low and get into the thick of contention even though he’s four behind Harman. Henley won his first start as a PGA Tour member at the 2013 Sony, slayed Rory McIlroy among others in a playoff three years ago at Honda and rallied just two months ago to win the Shell Houston Open. He’s got the game, and if the putter gets hot – as it often does – he can make up ground in a hurry.


Winning score and champion?

HOGGARD: Brooks Koepka. Even with winds that are forecast to reach 15 mph, there’s little chance the teeth will return to Erin Hills in time for the final round. With five players already double digits under par, there will be no retreating – Brooks Koepka wins at 15 under par.

LAVNER: Brooks Koepka, at 13 under. Harman doesn’t have a top-25 in a major, let alone experience as the leader, so it’s easy to see him fading. It’ll be difficult for Thomas to back up a record round. And Fleetwood had to sleep on that 18th-hole mistake. Koepka often acts like he’s impervious to stress, and that attitude will be put to the test on Sunday with the wind finally expected to blow. I think he gets it done.

MELL: 14 under. Rickie Fowler. Overnight rains keep Erin Hills softer than the USGA would like, but the winds are projected to stiffen on Sunday. It’s Fowler’s time. He’s still young, but he’s more proven than any player sitting in front of him. His little rally on the back nine Saturday sets him up to finish off what he started on Thursday.

GRAY: I still feel like this is Koepka’s to win, and I think he’ll get it done at 14 under. The wind is expected to blow for the final round, which could present new challenges for the players, but Koepka’s length off the tee remains a strength as long as he can keep the ball out of the fescue. His major record has been building to a breakthrough, and by night’s end he’ll have his arms around his first major title.

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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.”