Day, Spieth find major success through teamwork

By Mercer BaggsAugust 18, 2015, 6:30 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Ellie Spieth wrapped her arms around her brother’s leg and hugged with everything she had.

Jordan shared the squeeze, but when he went to move only his right leg went forward. Ellie stayed affixed to his left hip.

Jordan Spieth’s family was on hand Sunday at Whistling Straits, hoping to witness him make more history.

When he didn’t, at least when he didn’t accomplish his primary goal of becoming the third player in history to win three men’s professional majors in a season, the family was there to support him – and embrace him.


Twenty-nine times during his pre-championship news conference last Wednesday, Jordan Spieth used the personal pronoun “we” to refer to his actions.

“We do a good job of dissecting the most important information on courses.”

“We have been improving each year in the major championships.”

“I think we're going to be a lot more mature in that situation.”

And that doesn’t include the number of times he said “our” instead of “my.”

It’s not a psychological ploy, designed to lessen his burden. Spieth craves pressure, functions better the greater the amplitude.

It’s not an overt sign of respect, meant to project a faux All-American appeal.

At least, that’s not what this seems; though, the skeptic might contend otherwise.

This, whatever this is to Spieth and however other may perceive it, isn’t about anyone else.

It’s about winning major championships; an encompassing, need-to-know plan, designed to maximize his ability and allow him to contend and win golf’s biggest events on a regular basis.

Spieth’s “we” includes: Father Shawn; mother Christine; brother Steven; sister Ellie; manager Jay Danzi; swing coach Cameron McCormick; caddie Michael Greller; girlfriend Annie Verret; trainer Damon Goddard and chiropractor Troy Van Biezen. As well as several high-profile corporate sponsors.

All of these individuals and organizations converge for a common goal: make Jordan Spieth the best player he can be.

It might sound a little saccharine, but the results are undeniable.

At 22, Spieth is a two-time major champion, a five-time PGA Tour winner and the second-youngest world No. 1 in men’s history.

Again, at 22 years and three weeks.

He’s gone from a talented prospect with no professional status to one who earned a Tour card on merit to someone who has earned $18.6 million in three official seasons.

And when asked to assess his accomplishments, Spieth credits those around him for helping make him successful. He does, however, understand that he plays a significant role in all this.

It’s a selfish endeavor, really. Having all the people around you, focused on you and what you need/want to do. But it’s mutually beneficial. The components of “we” are well compensated, whether that is financially or emotionally. This, as it appears on a personal, if not completely on a corporate level, is done more out of respect and love than for financial gain. This is with whom Spieth has chosen to share himself.

This is his team.

“I figure I have, Michael's with me on the course, he's the one that's a part of each decision that we make as far as preparing for what we do. I have Cameron, I have my trainer Damon, sports chiro, manager, everybody gets stuff ready for us to play our best golf,” Spieth said.

“I'm the one hitting the shots and hitting the putts and getting the credit, I guess, but at the same time I believe that this is a – we're a brand, we're a company, we're competing together all for the same goal. And I try to align myself with the best at what they do in the world, because then that will free me up, I won't have to worry about any other parts of my life on and off the course and it seems to be working. We got a great team and no one's been scared of the next level and that's why we are where we are right now. So, I believe that on and off the course it's not just me.”


Players once had themselves as the entirety of their team, maybe an immediate family and a regular caddie. Then maybe the addition of a swing coach. Maybe an assistant. Then a manager. Possibly a trainer. A sports psychologist. Nanny. Personal decorator.

It takes a village, nowadays.

Some surround themselves with many others out of luxury. The goal isn’t to make themselves a better, more singularly focused player; it’s to make life comfortable and enjoyable.

Others, like Spieth, create a team for professional purposes, so that he can limit distractions, put on blinders and do that which he most wants to do: Win.

Spieth is certainly not alone in this endeavor; he has just been the most successful recently in applying the plan.

A further study of his PGA Championship transcripts reveal Spieth’s mentality. On Wednesday – carrying a treasure trove of positive memories into the media center and with the prospect of winning three majors in one season – Spieth took the all-inclusive pronoun route. Success was shared.

Sunday, upon defeat, responsibility was singular.

“I could have obviously made more putts today, I could have done a little bit more.”

“I missed it.”

“I knew I was going to be playing uphill from there.”

Again, interpret and judge how you will, but this does not appear to be media deception. If Spieth is a microphone con man, he’s better than Frank Abagnale, Jr.

Spieth’s public persona has been both praised and criticized; though, mostly praised. But the manner in which he speaks to the media, the way in which he answers questions – as famed golf writer Jamie Diaz was quoted recently, “It’s almost like you’re the teacher and he wants to get an A on the answer.” – is more than just how he was raised or perfunctory Texan talk.

It’s part of a mindset that has been conditioned to win. And, in his mind, winning takes a team effort. Losing, well, that’s on him. That’s him not properly applying his winning formula, one he chooses not to reveal.

It didn’t work this past week. Not so much because of what Spieth did not do, but because of what Jason Day did. Spieth understood this and it’s why – along with claiming world No. 1 for the first time in his career – that he was in a congenial mood Sunday evening.

“Obviously, this is as easy a loss as I've ever had,” Spieth said, “because I felt that I not only couldn't do much about it, as the round went on, I also accomplished one of my life-long goals and in the sport of golf.”


Day was brilliant, setting a major record in relation to winning score under par. But even he, in his post-victory news conference, credited his team for putting him in position to be successful.

Family, a few employees, limited outside influence. Zach Johnson, the reigning Open champion – and unlike Day and Spieth, pushing 40 – spoke last Tuesday to the positive influence of those around him. Verbal mentions of “we” and “team.”

That’s the golf world in which we live. This is a team game now. And great players surrounded by good people are very successful.

“My team,” Day said, “we’re very close. And I don’t have a bunch of ‘yes’ men around. I’ve got people that are very honest and care about not only my golf game, but who I am as a person.

“I’m going to think about (winning the PGA) for the rest of my life and I know … that we did it together.”

Before his victory, came the tears. Day fought to suppress his burgeoning emotions, at least until after he putted out to win his first major title.

When that happened: Niagara Falls.

“When I saw that putt go up to half a foot, I just couldn’t stop crying,” Day said. “It’s just a lot of hard work that I’ve been putting into this game to dedicate myself to have a shot at glory, have a shot at greatness. And that’s what we all work towards.”

Just as Spieth was joined by members of his team upon defeat, so, too, was Day in triumph. His wife Ellie; son Dash; caddie/coach/father figure Colin Swatton; agent Bud Martin and physiotherapist Cornel Driessen, were there.

As he walked to the scoring trailer, Day carried his son in his arms, holding him tightly while walking through the security-made path, aligned by patrons and press.

And just like Ellie Spieth a few moments before, Dash Day didn’t want to let go. He clung to his hero with all that he had.

But Daddy had to go sign his card. He has just won a big one for the team.

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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, Dominic 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.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.