Finally A Player of the Year Race
What he doesn't have is a lock on player of the year.
For the first time in four years, golf heads into the stretch run with the Jack Nicklaus Award -- best on tour as voted by the players -- up for grabs.
Woods has everything in his corner except a major, and the PGA Championship next month at Oak Hill is his last chance to win a Grand Slam event for the fifth straight year.
If he doesn't, it will be interesting to see how the players vote.
Greg Norman in 1995 is the last guy to be voted PGA Tour player of the year without having won a major that season.
David Duval won the most tournaments (four), the money title and had the lowest scoring average in 1998, but players gave the award that year to Mark O'Meara, whose only two victories were the Masters and British Open.
If Mike Weir (Masters), Jim Furyk (U.S. Open) or Ben Curtis (British Open) win at Oak Hill, that would make them the leading candidate. If Woods wins, he likely will be the favorite because of his four other PGA Tour victories and otherwise dominance.
And if it's someone else, the race could go down to the wire.
Curtis Strange returned to England for the first time since the Ryder Cup, working the British Open as a television analyst for ABC Sports.
Strange, captain of the U.S. team that was beaten by Europe, drove his cart along the back nine Saturday at Royal St. George's and was stopped for autographs and radio interviews at every turn.
'A few of them called me captain,' Strange said. 'I think they know me now. They're very nice people. They're the same today as they were back then.'
While Annika Sorenstam decides whether to accept an invitation to play in the Skins Game, the rest of the four-man field is starting to take shape.
Mark O'Meara gets one spot as the defending champion. The invitations don't go out until next month at the earliest, but organizers plan to offer the other two spots to Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Sorenstam, who became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour, has said she will not play in another tour event.
However, Sorenstam said two weeks ago she is considering a special event like the Skins Game, the original silly-season tournament. Her appearance would boost ticket sales and TV ratings with Tiger Woods taking this year off.
The only hang-up for Love is that the Skins Game is held over Thanksgiving weekend. He will be in South Africa the previous week for the Presidents Cup.
RIGHT CLUBS, WRONG PLACE
Bob Estes made his first bogey at the British Open before he even set foot on Royal St. George's.
He has been using cavity-back clubs with U-shape grooves. That's perfect for getting the ball in the air with a lot of spin -- and just what he didn't need for a windy course.
'I should have been smart enough to know to bring my blades over here,' Estes said after closing with a 69 to finish at 9-over 293. 'I was in trouble from the start.'
Gary Wolstenholme, best known for beating Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup, has won amateur championships in seven countries and is a lock to make his fifth straight Walker Cup team for Britain and Ireland.
But playing in the British Open for only the second time makes him wonder how life would have been different if he turned pro.
'When I saw Ernie Els going out of the course in his brand new Mercedes, I thought I'd love to be able to afford that car,' the 42-year-old Englishman said. 'I have a Saab.'
Wolstenholme works as a marketing manager at a golf club, and said he might consider turning pro when he is eligible for the senior tour.
Now, his biggest goal is to set the record for most points in a Walker Cup. He is three points behind Sir Michael Bonnallack. Britain & Ireland defend the cup Sept. 6-7 at Ganton Golf Club in England.
Wolstenholme doesn't reflect on his victory over Woods, saying only that 'it was on television, and that was good for me.'
In fact, he says he hasn't even seen Woods since that match.
'I would love to have a drink with him and see what his life is like,' Wolstenholme said. 'But I doubt if that will ever happen.'
In case Wolstenholme has been out of the loop, Woods is doing just fine as a pro.
The Royal & Ancient plans to review its procedures to avoid another freak incident in which Mark Roe and Jesper Parnevik were disqualified from the British Open for failing to swap scorecards.
Roe had a 67 and was at 1-over 214. He would have been two shots off the lead and paired with Tiger Woods in the final round. Instead, he put Parnevik's score of 81 on his card, while Parnevik put Roe's score on his card.
'We'd be crazy not to review our procedures thoroughly because incidents of this kind are very undesirable,' Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson said Monday, wrapping up a weird week at Royal St. George's.
'The rules of golf, however, are unlikely to be adjusted because of this incident,' he said. 'People are responsible for their own score, and if you try to write a rule about that, then you cannot actually write one which says it just applies to people who are on television.'
In Kenny Perry's first 240 starts on the PGA Tour, he won $2,771,771. In his last five starts, he has won $2,926,750. ... Of the five players who finished in the top 10 at the Masters and U.S. Open, only two made the cut in the British Open. Ernie Els tied for 18th, while Mike Weir tied for 28th. ... The Royal Bank of Scotland is a longtime sponsor of the British Open. Perhaps it was more than just coincidence that Luke Donald, who recently signed an endorsement deal with RBS, wound up in the same group with Tiger Woods the first two days at Royal St. George's.
STAT OF THE WEEK
For the first time since 1999, Tiger Woods has played each of the first three majors over par. He won the PGA that year at 11-under 277.
'I didn't know if he was an American or not.' -- Fred Couples, on Ben Curtis winning the British Open.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
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.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
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.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
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.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
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.”
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.”