Ko leaves no doubt with Evian win

By Randall MellSeptember 13, 2015, 7:42 pm

Lydia Ko is golf’s ultimate prodigy.

If there were a Grand Slam of record-setting youthful triumphs, Ko would have completed it Sunday by winning the Evian Championship in France.

And she would have done so with an exclamation point.

That’s what shooting a final-round 63 to become the youngest woman to win a major championship felt like.

Yes, Evian Golf Resort might not be St. Andrews or Oakmont, but this was her masterpiece, regardless of the canvas. Ko’s bogey-free 63 was ridiculously good under final-round pressure. She was seven shots better than anyone else in contention, seven shots better than anyone else among the final 18 players off the first tee on Sunday.

Though Ko started two shots behind at day’s start, she won by six. She hit every green in regulation but one. 

“It’s kind of hard to beat somebody who shoots 63,” said Lexi Thompson, who shot 70 and still got lapped finishing second. “She played amazing. She deserves it. She ball-struck the heck out of this golf course and putted really well. You can't get much better than that.” 


Evian Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Ko sets the new mark as youngest woman to win a major at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old.  Really, though, Ko’s feat feels even more historic than that. Yeah, sure, Young Tom Morris was 17 when he won the Open Championship in 1868, but he was among just a dozen players in the field.

Even Ko was dazzled by her feat. 

“It’s amazing, I guess, a little bit, that I can leave my name in the history books,” Ko said.

Here’s a slam that’s grand: At 14, Ko won the NSW Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour, becoming the youngest player at the time to win a professional event. At 15, she won the Canadian Women’s Open, becoming the youngest player to win an LPGA event. At 17, she ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, becoming the youngest man or woman to rank No. 1 in professional golf.

And now there’s this, breaking through to win the Evian Championship, her best triumph and toughest test.

Ko delivered under pressure Sunday, under constant reminders that if she was going to surpass Morgan Pressel as the youngest winner of major, this was her last chance. Pressel was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old when she won the Kraft Nabisco in 2007. Ko will be a full month older than that when women’s golf’s next major arrives at Mission Hills next spring.

Ko got a full year of this hype from us folks in the media, a countdown of her last five chances to surpass Pressel. The pressure seemed to be getting to Ko, too, right from the start. She tied for 51st in the spring at the ANA Inspiration, her worst finish in a major until she missed the cut in her very next major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. That was the first cut she missed as an amateur or pro playing the LPGA. She got some major momentum going at the U.S. Women’s Open, tying for 12th, and then made a good run at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, tying for third.

By the time Ko arrived at Evian, she didn’t have to be asked about the clock ticking on her major quest.

She knew.

Walking on to the 18th green Sunday, Ko knew it was finally over. Her caddie, Jason Hamilton, told her to enjoy the moment. Ko said she felt her eyes well up with tears thinking about what the victory meant.

“I didn't totally cry-cry,” Ko said. “But I kind of got a little overwhelmed, and I could kind of felt tears coming when Jason said, `Enjoy the moment.’

“I kind of felt back over the whole week and all the questions I've been asked. But in a way, I was relieved.”

It was Ko’s fourth victory this year, the 13th professional title worldwide in her career.

Her coaches should get their due, too. The team of David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan got some grief taking over Ko’s game at the end of 2013 when they started changing her swing. There was criticism changing her fade to a draw, remaking her swing to give her more distance, but look what they’ve done together. Four wins this year alone, rising to No. 1 back in January, ranking No. 2 on the cusp of No. 1 again now, and winning this major.

“Pretty amazing,” Ko said.

Getty Images

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.

 

 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”