Warming Up for the Warburg Cup
When we came on the air live, the very first thing the viewer saw was Donna Caponi asking U.S. team captain Arnold Palmer a quick question. Immediately following, it was my turn with Rest of World captain Player.
My question was, 'I know you like your team's chances, but you also like this format don't you?'
Mr. Player, as if scripted and on cue, gave this impromptu soliloquy that eventually resulted in his son and caddy Wayne Player - who has obviously been witness to countless similar public performances by his father - breaking out in laughter seemingly at both the look in my eyes and the depth to which his father went to pull out this particular one. It was a classic, delivered with his typical conviction.
There couldn't have possibly been a better way to kick off our coverage than to open the show with two of the game's greatest legends - and certainly its two greatest ambassadors - talking about their thoughts on this very special competition.
'Shakespeare once said, 'A man for all seasons,'' was how Player started in a poetic attempt to capture both the nostalgia and the romance of this two-year-old competition. His point was that the age of players in the field spanned four decades.
However, in hindsight, it could have had plenty more significance, because the players were men for all seasons - and not particularly by choice. They had to endure four seasons in three days.
Wednesday was the first day of the Cup, and all pro-am participants were shown exactly why real estate at this seaside destination was higher than some of the scores recorded during Sunday's singles matches. It was perfect.
Thursday, the second pro-am day, was quite warm. It was relatively pleasant, but just calm and warm enough for the areas second greatest natural hazard other than hurricanes, 'no see 'ems', to make you wish the weather would change.
Well, be careful what you wish for. Saturday brought steady rains which at times turned into downpours strong enough to make you swear that the constant parade of shrimp boats was replaced by an arc - which would have been fitting because we were in the presence of gods.
And then Sunday, after raining through the night, the expected cold front moved in. What it lacked in warmth, it made up for in wind. Raymond Floyd looked like a Nordic skier, and Tom Lehman sported a nifty cold-weather undergarment that looked like a cross between a wet suit and a NASCAR pit crew fire protection coverall. Wind-chill factors in the 30s were what produced some big numbers, but it was match play and the Yanks dominated.
In the end, the U.S. team retained the Cup that they had won by a single point during the inaugural matches last year. The final tally was 14 to 9 , but that in no way tells the story of the UBS Warburg Cup.
Player, Floyd, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin, the King himself, and a host of other players who grew up with persimmon - all in one place, playing golf, and thoroughly enjoying each others company. Quite simply, if youve been a fan of golf for any amount of time preceding the Tiger era, you would have given anything to have a front row seat ' a seat that probably would have stuck to your seat on Sunday.
From the first words of the respective captains a year ago, through to this week, the one constant to the matches was the insistence by both captains that the matches be played in the spirit of the game 'the same spirit Samuel Ryder intended for the now-contentious cup matches bearing his name. And they were.
Players routinely dined together, played pool in the palatial and warm locker room, and generally got along. Perhaps it does have a bit of the feel of an inconsequential event ' perhaps. After all, the matches just blew out the first birthday candle. But from the first moment I stepped onto the property early in the week, it had a bit of a different feel.
Every player to a man reiterated the same comments about the competition. 'Were all competitors, and make no mistake, we do want to win,' Floyd said. 'But we want to do it in the spirit in which it is intended.'
The difference between this year and last must lie in the fact that now the matches had a tiny bit of something that they didnt have last year ' they had a year of history. The Americans had claimed the Cup last year, and they definitely wanted to keep it for another. The Rest of World team wanted to enjoy themselves, enjoy the camaraderie, and all that, but they also wanted to win the Cup. It was just a bit more serious.
The first match I followed Friday best illustrated my point. Floyd and Lehman played their first-ever round together. Think about that for a moment: Raymond Floyd, the man whose steely glare has probably intimidated more opponents than Ben Hogan himself, and Tom Lehman as partners. The same Tom Lehman who was so instrumental to the Americans monumental comeback during the singles matches at the 1999 Ryder Cup. The same Tom Lehman who received a cheap shot about his religious faith from Sam Torrance following the regrettable outburst on the 17th green at Brookline, and all the ensuing rhetoric.
Wait, it gets better.
Floyd and Lehman were pitted against this years European Ryder Cup vice captain, Ian Woosnam, and his great friend and European Ryder Cup captain, Torrance.
Torrance and Woosnam are gritty competitors - there should be absolutely no question about that. But they were playing perhaps two of the greatest match-play competitors to ever tee it up in a Ryder Cup with 50 stars and 13 stripes on their bag.
'There wasnt a lot of loose talk out there today,' Lehman said. 'We definitely wanted to win.'
Raymond Floyd was a captains pick in both the victorious 1991 and 1993 Ryder Cup Matches - the latter coming at the age of 51. Tom Lehman played his first Ryder Cup in 1995 and arguably should have been a captains pick last year. As a matter of fact, if we were betting on one of those hypothetical 'era vs. era' possibilities, I would bet the farm on those two as partners in their respective primes.
Floyd and Lehman won, 1-up, on the 18th hole. It was a win that might not make the annals of golf history, but it had to feel good for the Americans. But there was no animosity, no sneers, no backhanded comments to the press, and no lasting scars. It was good fun - the manner in which it was intended.
The matches were contested mightily - more so than a year ago. And next year, the RoW team will probably be even more focused. But win, lose or draw - or should I say, be it winter, summer, or fall - if these same players ever get together again in the future, I want to be there.
The UBS Warburg Cup matches are here to stay. The Cup might someday leave, but the matches arent going away. Imagine that ' a silly-season event that isnt silly.
Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
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.”