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Cantlay does 'just enough' for first win

By Nick MentaNovember 6, 2017, 3:47 am

LAS VEGAS – With the sunlight all but gone and after 90 minutes of PGA Tour pros looking like weekend hackers, Patrick Cantlay finally – mercifully – ended the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday.

He made a scrambling par on the second extra hole to defeat Alex Cejka and Whee Kim in a playoff for his first PGA Tour title.

As choppy as the finish was – and make no mistake, it was a gagfest – when that final putt dropped, none of it mattered. Because there was Cantlay, standing victorious, re-asserting his place in this game after three years of injury and what he termed on Sunday night as “heartbreak.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Cantlay, now 25, was the top-ranked amateur in the world for 55 weeks, as highly touted a prospect as guys named Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

It just “feels like a long time ago,” he said Sunday night, seated next to his new trophy.

When he turned pro in 2012, PGA Tour victories seemed assured for the Nicklaus Award winner out of UCLA. It just took him a lot longer than expected. And when his moment came, it was far from pretty.

“The finish did not happen the way I thought it would,” he admitted, “but it was just enough.”

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Full-field scores from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

After starting the day four behind co-leaders J.J. Spaun and Beau Hossler, Cantlay took the outright lead with a birdie at 13, one of four in a row on Nos. 11-14. To that point, Sunday’s final round had looked nothing like Saturday’s third round, when wind gusts of nearly 40 miles an hour battered the field late in the day.

But one hole later, after a calm start, the wind returned to send those near the top of the leaderboard into a collective nosedive.

“It was really two different days out there,” Cantlay said. “It was really like the first 14 holes, and the last four holes. The first 14 holes were a shootout.”

The last four were anything but. At one point, with absolutely no one wanting to win this golf tournament, the Shriners appeared headed for a five-way playoff. Cantlay, who had reached 11 under par, bogeyed 17 and 18 to post 9 under. Kim, likewise, dropped a shot on the 72nd hole to get into the clubhouse at 9.

Next up, needing birdie to win and par to get into a playoff, Chesson Hadley bogeyed 18 – you may be noticing a theme here – to fall out of contention.

And in the final group, 54-hole leader J.J. Spaun finished double bogey-double bogey to drop from 10 under par to 6 under par.

That left three players to return to the 18th tee: Cantlay, Kim, and Alex Cejka, who had gone off in the morning’s second starting time and fired a 64 to reach 9 under long before it was en vogue.

“It was a little bit, a little bit, a little bit tricky. Hanging out for one and a half hours, it was a long time,” said Cejka, who had been off the course closer to two hours. “I was watching, forced to for a long, long time. And then the wind picked up. I was eating and packing up. I almost put everything in the car. But then the wind kicked up and the guys were making bogeys and doubles.”

And after all three players made – surprise – bogey on the first extra hole, they once again returned to the tee at 18, where Cantlay lost his ball to the right and encountered some tree trouble on the second playoff hole.

At that point, he had two options: chip out, or lace a punch-cut 4-iron from 185 yards that went under one tree and around another. He chose the latter option and ran his ball through the back of the green into a small collection area, 70 feet from the hole.

With Kim out of it and Cejka off the green, Cantlay very nearly holed his putt from the fringe, which burned the left edge. And when Cejka failed to get up and down, Cantlay brushed in his par putt, sending a parade of Shriners onto the putting surface.

It was a coronation long overdue for Cantlay, after back injuries forced him away from competitive golf for three years from 2014 to 2017. And it was during that time away, in 2016, that his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was killed crossing an intersection in a hit-and-run accident, with Cantlay standing 10 feet away.

“There were some really low times,” he said.

But Cantlay has persevered. He put his medical extension to good use last season, finishing second at the Valspar Championship and making it all the way to the Tour Championship at East Lake on only 13 starts.

And now, he’s a PGA Tour champion. Patrick Cantlay is back, and he is setting his sights on once again becoming the No. 1 player in the world – this time, as a professional.

“Having won, I hope they pile up,” he said. “I feel like getting your first one can sometimes be the toughest one to get.

“I want to be the best player in the world, and I want to win a bunch of tournaments. I feel like if that’s not what you’re out here for, you shouldn’t be out here.”

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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.”