Stenson proving playoff system is far from wrong

By Jason SobelSeptember 21, 2013, 7:16 pm

ATLANTA – If you close your eyes and try with all your might, you can probably picture PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem trying different playoff systems on for size, like a modern-day, buttoned-up, brand-speaking Goldilocks in a quest to find perfection in the house of the Three Bears.

Since its inception in 2007, the FedEx Cup format has often resembled a bed that’s too soft or porridge that’s too hot. In effect, it seems there is always some sort of problem with it.

“This system is too weak!” “This system is too volatile!”

Never has it been “just right.”

Of course, that notion may speak to the fact that Goldilocks is too finicky rather than the Three Bears owning an imperfect porridge recipe. In more direct terms, since there’s no singular system that will please everyone, there will always be some preaching for improvement.

With just 18 holes left to play in the 2013 campaign, the classic example of consternation is staring back at us from atop the FedEx Cup standings.

Henrik Stenson, who failed to win a tournament during the PGA Tour’s regular season, owns a 2,027-point advantage based largely on winning the second playoff event and holding a four-stroke lead here in the finale. Tiger Woods, who in no uncertain terms enjoyed the best season of any player this year with five victories, finds himself in second place in the standings, dropping a spot by ranking in a share of 26th place on this week’s 30-man leaderboard.

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All of which could lead to potential grousing from all angles.

There are those who will argue that Stenson doesn’t deserve to win the FedEx Cup because he wasn’t the best player all year.

(Counterargument: Playoffs aren’t supposed to reward the best performer for the entire year.)

There are those who will argue that Woods deserves to win because he was the best player all year.

(Counterargument: Again, that’s not the true idea of a playoff system.)

There are those who will argue that Woods doesn’t deserve second place because he’s played so poorly in the finale.

(Counterargument: The eventual standings shouldn’t simply mirror those of the closing tournament.)

It should come as no secret that since the FedEx Cup was instituted, the PGA Tour has been trying to serve two masters.

Those in the circuit’s Ponte Vedra Beach offices want to reward the players who have enjoyed the best season. But they contrastingly want to provide a thrilling finish for the fans that can ultimately prove volatile.

What’s left is a system that is a little of both. Not too hot, not too cold – but maybe not exactly “just right,” either.

“I don't know where I need to finish, and it all depends on where Tiger and Adam [Scott] finish and so on,” Stenson said after a third-round 69. “Well, Tiger in particular, I guess at this point. But it's still an open ballgame, I'm sure. First of all, I'm interested in winning the tournament. And I know if I do that, then I'm going to win the FedEx Cup.”

His words recall those of Bill Haas from the 2011 edition of this tournament. After getting into a playoff and winning the tournament, he maintained that he didn’t know his standing as far as the $10 million grand prize for winning the FedEx Cup, too.

Therein lies another sensitive issue with the system. After all, the Baltimore Ravens don’t win the Super Bowl without knowing it; the Miami Heat don’t win the NBA Championship without knowing it. But yes, Stenson can win the FedEx Cup without having a clue.

That said, he’s also proving what those teams proved in their given playoffs, as well.

Just get in, then anything can happen.

Stenson was ranked ninth in the standings prior to the playoffs. He’s gotten hot at the right time, which is the very strategy behind succeeding in any playoff format. And now, with one final round left to be played, he owns the best chance to win the whole thing.

That can even happen if Stenson blows his four-stroke lead on Sunday and loses the tournament title. The math behind the system shows he could very well still win the FedEx Cup in this scenario.

Despite contending throughout the week that his main goal is to win the event, Stenson admitted that he’d celebrate – albeit a bittersweet celebration – if he finishes, say, runner-up at the tournament, but wins the FedEx Cup.

“I'll still be pleased to a degree, yes,” he explained. “Of course I want to win two. If I can't win two, I'll be very pleased to win one. If I'm winning nothing, it will probably be not so sweet from this position. But I didn't have anything when I came here, so we'll see what we'll leave with.”

If that happens, expect more hand-wringing and consternation over the FedEx Cup format.

“This system is too weak!” “This system is too volatile!” 

It may never be “just right,” but it’s far from wrong.

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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.”