Duval back in 'control,' smiling at St. Andrews

By Joe PosnanskiJuly 19, 2015, 4:20 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – David Duval is about four years older than Tiger Woods, and he emerged on the scene at just about the same time. Woods was the phenom, of course, the child prodigy who first swung a club on television when he was 3 and seemed destined for glory ever since. Duval, meanwhile, was raw intensity.

“It’s like there should be an asterisk next to my name,” he said back in those early days, when he and Woods were wrestling for the top spot on the world rankings. “Down at the bottom of the page it would say, ‘Difficult to get to know. Easy to misunderstand.’”

Duval did not play golf so much as he stared it down through his wraparound Oakleys. He carried pain from his childhood; his older brother Brent died when he was 12. David was just 9 and donated bone marrow in an effort to save Brett’s life. In rare moments of openness David would admit that he blamed himself. His parents went through a heart-wrenching divorce in the aftermath. David Duval’s escape was to hit golf balls. He loved how it felt to make golf balls answer to his whims.

That was the draw for Duval. He did not care much for acclaim, and he did not like fame at all. In 1998, he won four tournaments and more than $2.5 million – most on the Tour. He didn’t look very happy. In 1999, he won four more times in the first four months and, for 14 weeks, became the No. 1 player in the world. Woods took the spot from him in July. Duval took it back for a week in August. This looked to be the first thrilling rivalry in golf since perhaps Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus 20 years before.

And then Woods and Duval went their separate ways. It was subtle at first. Duval suffered a back injury in 2000, Woods’ magical year, but he still almost won the 2001 Masters, the one Woods won to complete the Tiger Slam. Duval did win the Open Championship that year at Royal Lytham. But after that victory, he seemed oddly unsatisfied. “It really kind of struck me that it’s just a game,” he said a few months afterward. “And I think that, having won, I realized there’s much more out there.”

He began missing cuts. From 1999-2001, he missed a total of three cuts. In 2002, he missed eight. In 2003, he missed 14 in 18 tournaments. He took a break from the game – he was beat up, he was suffering from vertigo, he was lost as a golfer. In 2005, the former No. 1 played in 20 events. He missed 18 cuts and withdrew from another tournament. He shot 80 or worse seven times, including his opening round here at the Old Course.

The fall was more or less unprecedented. There have been other steep falls in golf, of course, others in sports, but to see Duval drop from No. 1 in the world, from Tiger Woods’ presumptive rival, to someone who could not consistently break 80 was jaw-dropping and sad.

In 2006, he shot an awful 84 at Augusta. It was horrifying. I followed him around a bit the next day, just to see what it was that kept him going. I saw him play the most remarkably awful hole I’ve ever seen a professional play. On the second hole, he hooked his drive into the woods, into an unplayable lie. He dropped the ball and hit his third shot off a stake, where it bounced back into an unplayable lie. He dropped the ball again, and hit his next shot off a tree and back into the woods. His sixth shot made the fairway, his seventh dropped into a bunker, his eighth splashed on the green and he two-putted from there. That’s a 10, the worst score ever on the second hole at Augusta.

But here was the crazy part: On the back nine, Duval went crazy. He birdied 10. He hit a brilliant shot at 12 and made birdie there. He birdied 14. He birdied the killer 17th. The wind was blowing pretty good, players were falling apart, but Duval couldn’t miss. He had three or four other good looks. He shot 32 on the back and could have shot a 29. He missed the cut by a million shots, but when it was over he and his wife Susie walked to the clubhouse, and there was a big smile on David’s face. That smile has always fascinated me. In all the years since his game crashed, the question to me was simple: Why go on playing? What joy could he still get out of golf?

Sunday at St. Andrews, Duval was in the first group to tee off. Duval had made the cut somewhat heroically: He was right on the cut line Saturday when he three-putted 17 and then went to 18 to make the cut-saving birdie. “I birdied the 18th knowing I had to,” he said. “That was cool.”

In the morning he proceeded to play like his younger self. Tiger Woods had missed the cut, leaving St. Andrews entirely baffled about the state of his game. And Duval birdied the second hole, the fifth, the seventh and the ninth. He made three birdies in four holes on the back nine and got his score to minus-6, which actually put him on the morning leaderboard. He put on a display of precision that reminded so much of the younger more severe version of himself. Only this time, he seemed to be enjoying it all. That smile.

And, after the round was over – he shot 67 and is 5 under for the tournament – he explained.

“The biggest enjoyment I get in the game of golf is controlling the golf ball,” he said. “Yeah, I loved winning golf tournaments … but I loved being in control of the golf ball.

“Now, I feel like I'm entirely in control of the golf ball. I've hit some crappy shots, don't get me wrong. I've hit some really crappy shots. But it's like, okay, so I'll go hit it again now. But being in control and hitting the golf ball where you're trying to hit it, it just gives me great pleasure.”

That is what keeps so many people in the game, right? You hit all the bad shots so that you can hit just a few good ones. You deal with the agonies of golf so that, every now and again, you can have a few moments when you feel in complete control. Duval is 43 now, and it has been 14 years since he has won a golf tournament. In the last decade, he has played in 186 tournaments and made the cut in only 56 of them.

Is it worth it for good moments?

“I'll go play tomorrow and do the best I can,” he says. “Maybe I'll shoot 67 again, maybe I'll shoot 77, who knows? But I'll have a smile on my face and enjoy walking around St. Andrews, I can tell you that.”

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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.”