Hawk's Nest: McIlroy should have been forthcoming

By John HawkinsMarch 4, 2013, 2:40 pm

It pleases me to no end when I turn on the Florida swing and see everyone in the gallery wearing a jacket. The players are dressed in sweaters, the wind is howling like my seventh-grade science teacher, and all of a sudden, Connecticut in early March doesn’t seem like torture.

If you’re a cold-blooded type sentenced to life in an arctic climate, 2013 has gotten off to a great start. The season began with a Hawaiian hurricane. We snickered when 3 inches of snow fell in Tucson, and when the PGA Tour fled to West Palm Beach for last week’s Honda Classic, it found November in Nebraska instead.

They call Florida the Sunshine State, but after flying to Orlando every week for four years, walking out of the airport and feeling Mother Nature’s gnarliest breath hit me in the face, I know it’s just a tourist lure. Nicknames such as “Hell’s Real Kitchen” or “Perspiration Nation” probably wouldn’t sit well with the chamber of commerce.

So they came up with something a bit more positive. Oh sure, the sun does shine in the Sunshine State, usually after three hours of mean-spirited clouds and a biblical thunderstorm. Ninety degrees isn’t a golf-cart mandate – it’s a thermometer reading at 7:45 a.m. And when it gets chilly? Sorry, but you are unworthy of sharing my pain.

The temperature here climbed all the way to 38 today. Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

IT HAPPENS ALMOST every week in the auspiciously entitled world of professional golf. A player gets off to a lousy start, misses a 5-footer for bogey on the seventh green, then feels a tweak in his back or a twitch in his knee. Six players failed to complete 36 holes at last month’s Northern Trust Open, including Sean O’Hair, who fired an opening-round 83.

Dustin Johnson quit after 27 holes in Honolulu. Four guys withdrew before the cut at Torrey Pines. What Rory McIlroy did last Friday at PGA National was hardly uncommon, but when you’re 23 years old and you’ve won a pair of major championships by eight strokes apiece, you are never invisible.

You can’t walk off a golf course after eight holes and not expect everyone to notice. You certainly can’t figure that people will buy into your story that you WD’d because of a toothache, a dog-ate-the-homework explanation that ranks with the best in golf history. It’s not that McIlroy is held to a higher standard because he’s the world’s top-ranked player.

It’s just that nobody cares when Alistair Presnell walks off after nine holes, which was the case the day before.

The toothache isn’t really the issue. Pain is a purely subjective matter – it’s not something that can be measured, or in most instances, even questioned. That said, imagine this scenario: McIlroy shakes hands with Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, withdraws from the tournament, then admits:

“You know what? I was playing horribly, embarrassing myself and destroying my confidence with every swing. I was doing myself a lot more harm than good out there. If the PGA Tour wants to fine me or spank me on the buttocks for quitting in the middle of the round, I have no problem with that, but I’m not going to remain out there and play like a 7 handicap when I’ve got some things I need to work on, including my competitive disposition.”

Would you, the serious golf fan, find those comments honestly refreshing or outrageously unacceptable? Charles Barkley has turned candor into a pop-art form. At the end of the day, a lot of people would still call McIlroy a quitter. More, however, would view him as a realist.

WHAT YOU DON’T see every week is a first-round leader who misses the cut, which is what happened to Camilo Villegas at the Honda Classic. A 64-77 combo added up to Villegas’ third consecutive MC, but his substandard play dates back to the start of 2011, when he was disqualified from the season-opener at Kapalua for removing loose impediments.

At this point, Villegas’ decline has evolved into a full-blown tailspin. His best finish in 29 starts since the beginning of 2012 is a T-18 in New Orleans. He saved his Tour card with some decent golf during last year’s Fall Finish, but any confidence or momentum he gained amid that stretch appears to be lost.

While emerging as one of the game’s best young players from 2006-08, Villegas’ success surprised some of his fellow Tour pros. They saw a homemade swing with moving parts and a putting stroke that wasn’t always reliable inside 5 feet, but the kid from Colombia kept getting better and better.

Back-to-back victories in the 2008 FedEx Cup playoffs signified that Villegas had arrived. His slight build was stacked with muscle, and very few players were longer off the tee – Villegas averaged a career-best 302.1 yards per drive in ’06.

Nowadays, he looks smaller, and his drives are more than 10 yards shorter. Here’s a stat for you: In 2011, Villegas ranked 163rd in greens in regulation and finished 109th in the FedEx Cup standings. In 2012, he jumped all the way to fourth in GIR but fell to 148th in the FedEx derby, leaving him out of the playoffs.

The moral to this story? If you can’t putt, it doesn’t matter where you hit it.

GOD BLESS DAVID Duval. More than 10 years have passed since perhaps the greatest career collapse in golf history, but Duval keeps searching, entering tournaments while missing cuts at a prolific rate – 30 times in 37 starts over the last two years.

I got a nice text from him last Saturday night, just to say hello and ask how I’ve been. We had a brief exchange, but when I asked if we could speak briefly on the phone, the conversation went cold. I’m pretty sure the guy is tired of talking about his long-lost game, even to someone he’s known and trusted for 16 years, and I can’t say I blame him.

On the same day the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer quit in mid-round because of a toothache, a former No. 1 showed up for his Friday tee time after opening with a 78. For all the good and bad that has occurred in Duval’s life over the last decade, I have just one question as a journalist:

Why do you keep trying?

There isn’t an ounce of condescension or sarcasm in my inquiry. In fact, I find Duval’s continued efforts to regain his form exceedingly admirable. Other superb players have fallen on hard times over the years, but none fell further or faster – and none tried for so long to figure it out.

Just as pain cannot be measured, neither can mental toughness. Are you feeling me, Mr. McIlwithdraw?

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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.”