Spieth keeps Grand Slam quest alive

By Joe PosnanskiJuly 19, 2015, 8:22 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – There’s a touching scene at the end of the movie “Big” when Tom Hanks’ girlfriend realizes that he really is just a little kid who was magically made into an adult by a carnival machine called “Zoltar.” It was a lot to take in.

“I tried to tell you,” he says.

“I didn’t listen, I guess,” she says bewilderedly. “I didn’t hear you, or want to or how would I have ... even if I did listen, why would I know? Why would I know that?”

At this moment, I feel as disoriented as she did in that one. Until Sunday, I did not really believe Jordan Spieth could win the Grand Slam. Sure, the kid is impressive – more than impressive. Yes, he has the all-encompassing game that can win any week on any golf course. And absolutely, his composure is awe-inspiring both on the golf course and off it.

Still, I just didn’t believe for a minute that anyone could really win golf’s Grand Slam.

And now, after Sunday, I do.

Now, let’s state the obvious first: Spieth is a long way from the Slam. Heck, he’s a long way from victory here at St. Andrews. He’s 12 under, a shot behind a couple of stars (Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen) and an amateur who is actually eight months older than him (Paul Dunne). Three of the world’s top 11 players – Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Adam Scott – are just two shots behind Spieth. With the wind down Sunday, the Old Course was like a Chuck E. Cheese, with every player* having his very own birthday parties. Unless the wind howls (and it is not expected to blow exceptionally hard), Monday figures to be like that again.

(* Except Dustin Johnson, who shot a miserable 75 that was more like an 80 considering the conditions and his length off the tee.)

So, no, nothing is done yet. But Sunday, Jordan Spieth showed something. It isn’t entirely different from what he showed at Augusta when he won the Masters or Chambers Bay when he won the U.S. Open. But what he did Sunday on the Old Course with all the history on the line and doubts in the air, it sure seemed different.

Look: Here was Spieth, winner of the first two major championships, on perhaps the world’s most famous golf course. And he wasn’t playing very well. Over a 27-hole stretch he was just even par, which is less-than-special this week. In the multi-day adventure that was his second round, he three-putted five times. Five! On the front nine on Sunday, he missed two good birdie chances and on the ninth hole he had a dreadful three-putt – one that prompted him to slug his golf bag in fury.

“I couldn’t hold (the frustration) in,” he said. And he added, “I didn’t want to hit Michael (Greller, his caddie) so I figured I’d hit my golf bag.”

At that moment, it was absolutely clear: The Slam had slipped away. That seemed bound to happen at some point. It always has seemed to me that winning all four major championships in the same year is impossible. Heck, what Tiger Woods did – winning four major championships in a row over two seasons – is almost impossible. But to do it all in a calendar year, to beat more than 100 of the world’s best players on four wildly different golf courses in a four-month span – with all the attention and focus on you and the ghosts of golfers shrieking in the background – well, that seems fully impossible.

Nobody has ever done it. Palmer couldn’t do it. Nicklaus couldn’t do it. Player couldn’t do it. Woods couldn’t do it. See, golf is a game of the mind, and every crack of doubt, every sliver of uncertainty, every moment of hesitation weighs down the mind. When Spieth punched the golf bag, he was three shots out of the lead. It looked then that was as close as it might ever get.

And then the kid birdied the 10th hole, the 11th hole and the 12th hole to move into the lead.

That’s when it really hit home: This kid does not doubt. And this, I think, is the greatest gift in golf. I once asked Dan Jenkins what he thought separated Jack Nicklaus from all the other talented players, and he said this: “You can’t compare Jack with anyone else. It was almost as if he felt it was his birthright to win major championships.”

Tiger Woods was like that too at his best. He didn’t have to fight doubt because he never felt doubt.

And now, there’s Spieth. Maybe it’s because he’s 21 (he turns 22 next Monday) and simply hasn’t learned how to doubt. Maybe it’s because of his family, who so obviously raised him to believe without limits. Maybe it’s because he’s accomplished so much already.

Or maybe he was just born with this unique talent. What is the first thing they tell you when you are trying to walk a tightrope? Don’t look down. But Spieth does look down, he looks down again and again. He knows exactly what’s on the line here. He understands it thoroughly. And he embraces just how high he is flying.

Here’s what Tiger Woods said in 2002 when he was trying to win the third leg of the Slam.

“I’ve got to play well and take care of business,” Woods said.

And here’s what Jordan Spieth said:’ “I see it as something that's only been done once before and it was a long time ago (Ben Hogan in 1953). That opportunity very rarely comes around. … And I'd like to have a chance to do something nobody has ever done. And so if I think about it that way, then I just want it a little bit more tomorrow, to be able to try and go into the last major and accomplish something that's never been done in our sport. … I do recognize what's at stake, and for me to accomplish that feat is going to be to simplify things and to just go about our business.”

So, yes, Woods and Spieth ended their thoughts the same way, but Spieth was a little bit more expansive – he knows that he’s playing for the Grand Slam, and he knows what that would mean, and he knows enough about golf history to understand just how the odds stack against him.

But you know what? He can do it. On the back nine Sunday, he played as if he had already won the tournament and was just acting it out for the public. To watch someone be that confident, that assured, that poised is inspiring. It’s at the heart of why I love professional golf.

Jason Day could win on Monday. He’s an amazing player who keeps getting close and one of these days he will break through. Louis Oosthuizen could win on Monday. He already won an Open at St. Andrews five years ago and he understands how to do it. Padraig Harrington could win on Monday. He’s a three-time major champion who seems to have found his game again.

Frankly, two dozen people could win the Open on Monday because the field is bunched up and the golf course is exposed and shootouts are unpredictable. But it sure seems to me that while a lot of players believe they can win the Open, Jordan Spieth believes he will. There’s a wide chasm between “can” and “will.” I believe, too.

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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.”