Korda overcame obstacles to win in Bahamas

By Randall MellJanuary 27, 2014, 12:20 am

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Jessica Korda made you scratch your head Sunday at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

She also made you marvel.

How do you win the LPGA season opener two weeks after deciding to overhaul your swing? How do you win when you’re still fighting your old swing, so much so that you shank a wedge sideways and out of bounds late in the third round? How do you win when the coach you sought to help rebuild your swing is so weakened in a cancer fight that you’ve been doing some of your work over the phone?

It speaks volumes that Korda kept fighting to the finish to beat daunting obstacles.

Take the 18th hole Sunday.

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Korda, 20, had to birdie it to beat Stacy Lewis and win her second LPGA title. She had to do so getting up and down from one of the most awkward circumstances you’ll see at the end of a tournament. After drilling her approach over the 18th green, just a few feet from the bleachers and amid some electric cables, she decided her nearest relief would create an inconvenient drop. So, instead, she had some officials hold the cables a few feet over her ball while she bumped a putt to the green.

Korda left that bump-and-run 6 feet short of the hole, and then she buried the birdie putt.

When Na Yeon Choi failed to hole out from the fairway behind her, Korda was the winner. She’s a season-opening specialist. Both her LPGA titles were season openers.

“It’s unbelievable,” Korda said after players doused her with Pure Silk shaving cream.

Korda closed fiercely, making birdies at the final two holes to overtake Lewis, the Rolex world No. 3. She birdied three of the last four holes.

She won even when it didn’t make sense she should win.

A couple weeks ago, Korda decided to overhaul her swing with the IMG Academy’s Grant Price (pictured), who is fighting cancer. She took a work in progress to the Bahamas. After taking the lead into Saturday, she started unraveling with old swing habits creeping into her game. She hooked a tee shot at the seventh hole into a hazard. She shanked a wedge at the 13th hole sideways, knocking her ball out of bounds.

Somehow, some way, Korda put herself back together.

“I didn’t let it get to me,” Korda said. “I hooked a bunch of shots in the water this week, hooked a bunch of shots in general. I might have shanked a shot, but I birdied the next hole after that. I definitely wasn’t looking back. I was looking forward.”

Her new coach couldn’t have taught that better.

Price, the nephew to Hall of Famer Nick Price, is on medical leave from the IMG Academy. He was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer last spring. He endured 4½ months of chemotherapy last summer, then major surgery last month, a retroperitoneal lymph dissection that left him with a scar from his sternum to his groin.

Price, 36, isn’t big on looking back, either.

“Grant means so much to me,” Korda said. “He’s so positive, and that’s shown this week. It’s given me a lot of confidence, his positivity.”

Though they were just two weeks into overhauling her swing, Price wouldn’t allow it to be an excuse for a poor start.

“He kept saying, `You are going to be ready this week, you are going to be ready regardless how you are hitting it on the range,’ and I wasn’t hitting it good. I wasn’t really that confident in myself. But just him being on the range with me, ingraining that positivity into my mind, it helped me so much.”

Price and Korda probably met 10 times on the range at the Ritz Carlton course in Bradenton before she left for the Bahamas, but in his weakened condition, Price’s stamina wouldn’t allow long sessions. He sat in a golf cart, and they worked.

“I’m proud of her,” Price told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview after he watched Korda’s victory from his home. “It was heartwarming to see, and I think it was genuinely therapeutic.”

Korda talked with Price on the phone every day this week. They talked about the shank after Saturday’s round.

“After hitting a shank, there’s a psychological barrier to get over,” Price said. “It’s a testament to Jessica’s mental strength that she bounced back so quickly. Really, this whole swing change, leaving her old coach, it’s a tough decision. Her confidence could have dropped through something like that.”

The week didn’t get off to the best start for Korda, either. Over her first nine holes, she topped a tee shot and hooked another tee shot in a hazard. The new and the old swings were clashing.

“We haven’t had that long to prepare,” Price said. “We’ve probably met about 10 times on the range, but the time I could spend there with my limits was less than I would like.”

Korda knew Price from her days at the IMG Academy. She sought him out carefully.

“First thing I did, I asked him, `Can you help me? And if you can't, it's completely OK. If you don't feel up to it, then it's fine, I don’t mind. But I need to know if you're going to be OK first,’” Korda said. “And that's how every practice started.”

It proved a most unusual winning formula.

“Just heartwarming,” Price said.

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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.”