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Rosaforte Report: Recalling an epic Presidents Cup

By Tim RosaforteMarch 12, 2018, 7:17 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report, the reported selection of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els as Presidents Cup captains for 2019 evokes memories of their putting duel in South Africa in 2003; Peter Kostis talks about Paul Casey and the virtue of aggressiveness; Patrick Reed justifies his sartorial homage to Tiger Woods and Liezl Els reflects on a decade of raising money for autism research.

There were no pretenses to Ernie Els being in the team room for the International side in last year’s Presidents Cup. Els told me at Liberty National last fall that he would like to follow in Nick Price’s footsteps and become the next International captain.

“I’m up for it,” Els said. “It would be a dream job.”

Making it even more of a dream is that Els gets to match strategies with Tiger Woods, his opponent in the all-time greatest moment in Presidents Cup history – their epic putting duel at Fancourt, South Africa, in 2003. The score was tied, 17-17, when Woods and Els began a sudden-death playoff. They halved the first two holes, and daylight was fading when Woods sank a 15-footer and Els dropped a 6-footer on top of him for another halve. Captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player decided to let the competition end in a tie.

While Els, who brings mojo with three victories and a course record (60) to Royal Melbourne. was a lock for his captainship, there is some second-guessing over Woods' selection. With a second-place finish on Sunday at the Valspar Championship in only his fourth tournament after back fusion surgery, it is foreseeable that Woods could make the 2019 team. Potentially, that could make Woods the first playing captain since Hale Irwin went 2-1 in a 20-12 victory over the Internationals at Robert Trent Jones GC in 1994.

As Nick Price’s protégé, Els brings cachet as a hall of famer and experience in eight Presidents Cups. Like Price, he’s extremely popular among his peers.

“Like Pricey, he’s a players guy. He mixes with all of us,” said fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen. “I think he will be an amazing captain.”

Els told me that remaining current with players is important, and to that end he will be playing more of an international schedule over the next two years as part of the education process with new players. As Els said about last year’s Presidents Cup, spending time “with the boys,” looking at the competition more as a captain than a competitor for the first time, “was quite an education.”

CASEY GOES FOR IT: Analytics have become a way that teachers teach and players play in this era of hitting shots and plotting strategy by the numbers. When Peter Kostis sat down with Paul Casey in the offseason, the conversation wasn’t so much about proximity to the hole as it was proximity to victory.

“You could even call it stupid aggressive,” Kostis said. “Confidence can paper over mistakes.”

It says something that Casey is the current leader in consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour with 27. It also says something that Casey went 150 starts without a win on the PGA Tour until Sunday’s victory in the Valspar Championship.

The point Kostis made is that it’s more difficult to win in 2018 than it was in 2010 or even 2000, the sweet spots in Tiger Woods’ career. And as Woods was shown on Sunday at Innisbrook, playing to the fat part of the green will produce second-place finishes, but not victories like the one that Casey pulled off with a final-round 65.

As Kostis told me on Sunday, playing this type of golf required the highest levels of short game and putting, but it pays off. Casey was third in the field in strokes gained around the green.

“It’s a different game now in order to get in the winner’s circle,” Kostis said. “Somebody is going to play all out, hit the shots they need, posting the low score and they get the W.”

RED SUITS REED: There’s been some social media banter about Patrick Reed wearing Tiger colors and his Nike logo in the final round of the Valspar, as if it were sacrilegious. It turned out more than coincidental when they finished on the same number (275) and the same place (T-2).

Reed has been wearing Tiger colors since junior golf; he always thought it was cool to wear black pants and a red shirt on Sunday.

There’s also some karma in it. The first time he wore the red and black in a Tiger pairing was in the second round of the 2014 Hero World Challenge, when he shot 63. That performance and the way he played in Tiger’s pod at the 2016 Ryder Cup, were enough to justify the homage to Woods.

Reed was also justifying the Nike contract that pays him enough that he can afford to be a free agent in the golf equipment marketplace.

Reed has struggled since his epic battle with Rory McIlroy at Hazeltine. Before that, he won five times from 2013-2016, rising to No. 7 in the world – the closest he’s come to the days of comparing himself to a top-five player in the world after winning at Doral in 2014. It’s now been 24 starts without a win, but he worked on his game hard in the offseason and could emerge as one of Tiger’s partners for the Ryder Cup in Paris if he keeps trending.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” Reed said Sunday after his best finish since a second in last year’s PGA Championship. “But at the end of the day, back in contention, having a chance to win a golf tournament is always fun.”

TEN YEARS OF AUTISM FUNDRAISING: Els was busy on Monday, working on a passion of his, and it wasn’t related to his new role as Presidents Cup captain. Ten years ago at the Valspar Championship, Els told the world that his son, Ben, had autism. He’s been working ever since raising money for the Els Center for Autism in Jupiter.

“Ernie was more than ready to have that discussion,” said his wife, Liezl. “He was the one sharing that. He knew it was time to share.”

Luminaries such as McIlroy, Price and Nicklaus were in attendance, pushing the fundraising to over $10 million in the decade since going public.

“For us it’s been such an unbelievable journey the last 10 years,” Liezl said. “It was such a struggle in the beginning to convince people, without land or a building, what we had in mind.”

What stands today is a 26-acre campus that features a fully staffed upper and lower school. And they wouldn’t have built the upper school unless Rickie Fowler made a $1 million hole-in-one in 2016 that kept the project going.

“It’s been a fulfilling and rewarding 10 years,” Liezl said. “The parents, the kids, the progress, and how grateful they are to have a facility like this that the kids can attend. We’re very proud of it and happy for all the happy faces we see.”

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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.”