New Approach to Chasing Tiger

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- It's hard to imagine Ernie Els getting worked up about anything. Hey, he's the Big Easy, the guy with the sleepy eyes, the comfortable grin, the soothing demeanor.
Truth is, the South African has been tormented by his pursuit of Tiger Woods, allowing it to affect every aspect of his game.
Els jokes about the 'little guy' on his shoulder, the demon who tells him to go for shots that have little chance of working, who keeps whispering 'Tiger, Tiger, Tiger' in his ear.
'If you start playing Tiger on Thursday from the first tee, that's the wrong way to go about it,' said Els, expected to be one of Woods' main challengers at the Masters after taking two weeks off to heal a sore wrist. 'You're going to beat yourself up and not play your normal game.'
A year ago at Augusta National, Els let his preoccupation with Woods ruin any chance of winning the tournament.
Woods was leading on Sunday when Els went to No. 13, hoping to take a big chunk out of the deficit with an eagle on the par-5 hole. He pulled out a 3-wood and tried to steer his tee shot around trees hugging the left side of the dogleg.
Instead, Els yanked the ball into the woods. To make things worse, he tried two impossible shots from the foliage, putting them both in Rae's Creek. He wound up taking a triple-bogey 8.
'I was trying to really get it around the corner and have a shot at eagle and all that stuff,' Els said. 'But after the tee shot, I was dead. And then I just made mistake after mistake. After that first mistake, I was trying to rectify it as quickly as I could. Subsequently, I just got myself deeper in a hole.'
It doesn't take a psychology degree and a couch to figure out why he is so preoccupied with Woods.
At age 24, Els won the first of two U.S. Open titles. He was the rising star in the world of golf: imposing in size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), dashing in looks and immensely talented.
He never really got a chance to enjoy his reign. In 1997, Woods signaled the start of a new era with a 12-stroke victory at the Masters. Since then, this sport has been Tiger's World - everyone else just has a tee time.
Over the years, Els has finished second to Woods in six tournaments around the world, more than anyone else. Two of those came in 2000, when Woods romped to record-breaking victories at the U.S. Open and British Open and went on to win four straight majors, the first player to do that in the modern era. Els wondered if he would ever get another chance.
'My focus wasn't channeled in the right direction,' he said. 'It was more channeled toward players instead of the golf course and the shots that I have to play.'
Els brought in famed coach David Leadbetter to work on his swing and, just as important, Belgian psychologist Jos Vanstiphout to work on his psyche.
'The first thing I told him was to forget about Tiger,' Vanstiphout said. 'Tiger wasn't the issue. He was the issue. Instead of changing the person, you have to change the way the person thinks.'
So far this year, the results are evident.
While Woods was recovering from knee surgery, Els became the first player in 14 years to win the first two PGA Tour events of the season. He won twice more against good fields in Australia.
Then came a reality check. Els and Woods went mano-a-mano at Bay Hill in the third round. It wasn't really a fair fight - Els had the sore wrist, Woods had a four-shot lead - but the world's best player solidified his spot by finishing the day with a 10-stroke lead. By the end of the next day, Woods was 19 shots ahead.
Els, it seems, is still a work in progress.
'Whenever Tiger gets into a tournament, pow!' Vanstiphout said. 'There's five times more press, more security, more attention. Ernie has got to learn to live with it, and he will.'
Make no mistake, though: Els is learning.
With his career threatening to drift off course last summer, he came through with his third major victory at the British Open. Woods wasn't a factor, shooting a wind-swept 81 on Saturday, but Els still had to overcome his mental demons.
He had a big lead on the back nine until a double-bogey on 16 left him one stroke behind. It's not farfetched to say Els was at a crossroads.
He had a remarkable birdie at 17, then parred the final hole of regulation to force a four-man playoff. After four extra holes, only Els and Thomas Levet were left. Els parred the next hole to claim the Claret Jug.
'The British was definitely the start of maybe the resurgence of my golf game,' Els said. 'If I didn't get through that tournament, if I didn't win that tournament, I think I would have been a different player right now.'
Vanstiphout puts it another way.
'It would not have been the end of him,' the psychologist said. 'It would have bloody killed him, though.'
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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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.”

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    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.”