Saving the Best for Last

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2003, 4:00 pm
The PGA Championship: That Cinderella of majors; the one with the descript, but non-distinct identity.
The Masters is the first major; the secret handshake major.
The U.S. Open is the national major; the formal, fairways-and-greens major.
The Open Championship is the universal major; the elemental major.
On the PGA Tour schedule, the PGA Championship is the final major; theum, the club professionals major.
The PGA Championship doesnt have the radiant allure of the first three majors. But its not tattered and torn, busting the table after the other majors have fed.
Its one of those teen movies where the girl with the glasses, pony tail and paint-stained overalls pops in a pair of contacts, lets down the locks, fills out a sexy red dress and gets the guy of her dreams.
Thats the PGA Championship -- overlooked, but, in the end, the one most admired.
Each year the seasons final major offers unparalleled drama: Tiger Woods trying to chase down an unrelenting Rich Beem in 2002; David Toms denying Phil Mickelson in 01; Goliath Woods withstanding the barrage of stones slung by David Bob May in 2000; Tiger surviving a Sergio scare in 99.
But why is that? Why is the least revered major the most exciting?
Maybe its because of course set-up. PGA courses generally are less penal than those on display at a U.S. or British Open. The fairways are a little wider, the rough a little less dense, the greens a little more navigable.
And as a result, the leaderboard tends to turn redder than Boris Yeltsins nose.
Over the last five years, the average winning score at the Masters has been 10.6 under par; 5.6 at the U.S. Open; 6.0 at the Open Championship.
Beginning in '99, the average winning score at the PGA Championship has been 15.5 under par.
Birdies ' not in a ridiculous Bob Hope Classic manner ' are fun to watch during a major week. Allowing players to expose their talents is enjoyable. Listening to them whine and moan about difficult course conditions is not. Watching them suffer publicly loses its appeal after a round or two.
Thats not to say that watching a player grind induces instant channel clicking; there is just more pleasure derived from watching players move forward on the leaderboard as opposed to witnessing a constant retreat.
Youre not going to back into the winners circle at a PGA Championship. You have to step inside front foot forward.
Another criticism of the PGA is that, perhaps because of the more hospitable course conditions, some of the winners are not worthy of being considered major champions: theyre fluke winners from the fourth of four majors.
Thirteen of the last 17 PGA champions have made this event their maiden major victory, and nine of those players have yet to notch another major.
But who are we to determine who deserves major recognition? After all, the PGA annually boasts the best field of the season ' according to the World Golf Ranking ' and if Rich Beem or Mark Brooks or Wayne Grady or Bob Tway is the last man standing, then job well done, Mr. Major.
And dont overlook who the underappreciated defeated en route to their coronation.
Tway won in 1986, with Greg Norman the runner-up; Jeff Sluman bettered future champ Paul Azinger in 88; Grady beat Americas best at the time, Fred Couples, in 90; Azinger got his revenge at Normans expense in 93; Steve Elkington out-dueled Europes best at the time, Colin Montgomerie, in 95; David Toms beat the worlds second-ranked player at the time two years ago, while Beem held off the world's No. 1 last year.
They all earned the honor of having their names forever etched onto the Wanamaker trophy.
This year, the seasons final major carries with it added importance.
Its not just Glorys Last Shot ' a trite catchphrase that reeks of Jim Nantz ' its Tigers last chance to win a major in 2003. Its an opportunity for Woods, Davis Love III, Kenny Perry, Mike Weir or Jim Furyk to secure Player of the Year honors. Its yet another ' No. 46, if youre keeping count ' opportunity for Phil Mickelson to become a major winner. Its a chance for Ben Curtis to validate his shocking Open Championship triumph. And its where the next Ben Curtis can rise to fame.
The PGA Championship doesnt have the aura of Augusta National, the national prestige of the first Open, or the worldly appeal of the second Open.
You may never hear a player say, The one major I most desire to win is the PGA Championship.
But, year after recent year, the PGA has been the most entertaining major, the most compelling major, the major most fun to watch come Sunday afternoon.
And to the viewing audience, those are major attractions.
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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.”