Lewis' competitiveness a risk with great rewards

By Randall MellApril 3, 2013, 2:28 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Stacy Lewis has a marvelous All-American girl smile, but she has an equally wonderful scowl.

At Yani Tseng’s best in her reign as Rolex world No. 1, her smile was practically a weapon.

It could be that unnerving to fellow tour pros.

“It’s scary,” Na Yeon Choi once said. “You can see Yani’s confidence in her routine. She walks to her ball with a smile. She never looks nervous.”

As the new Rolex No. 1, Lewis’ scowl is as woven into the fabric of her success as Tseng’s smile was.

While Lewis can light up a gallery flashing her All-American smile, she needs her scowl. She needs to thump her bag with a club once in a while. She knows her fiery nature, her feisty refusal to accept mistakes, is part of the DNA that is driving her rise to the top of the game. She understands her scowl, its place in her game, even as she seeks to tame what’s behind it.

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Lewis has honed a formidable all-around game in winning six times in the last nine months, but there’s still another level she’s seeking. She wants to win more major championships, and she’s tweaking her temperament as much as her game in a bid to do that.

Lewis won her first and only major beating Tseng at the Kraft Nabisco Championship two years ago. Lewis is the favorite to win it again this week. This might be the major that most suits her. Lewis has finished T-5 or better three times in five starts at Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Course. Lewis, though, wants to shore up her game to better suit all the majors, especially the U.S. Women’s Open, a prize dear to her.

The scowl will always have its place in Lewis’ game – she knows that, but she also knows the internal frustration that fuels that scowl can hurt her most in majors, where the setups are the most demanding, where frustration builds the fastest.

“The U.S. Open is such a mental test,” Lewis said. “I think that’s one of the reasons the South Koreans have done so well. They’re so mentally strong, very steady, and I tend to get a little emotional out there. So, it’s not my forte, but it’s something I’m working on and I want to get better at.”

South Koreans have won four of the last five U.S. Women’s Opens.

“I can get all over the radar with highs and lows,' Lewis said. 'I want to get better at managing that.”

 This is Lewis at her analytical best, studying what works, understanding who she is and what she can be.

Controlling her emotions, she believes, is as important as controlling the golf ball.

“We talk about it pretty much after every tournament,” said Dale Lewis, Stacy’s father. “She understands a lot of that is what has made her as good as she is. She wants to temper it, but she doesn’t want to lose that feeling that if I do make a mistake, I’ve got to fix it. But, she is improving.”

Dale could see it at the Kia Classic two weeks ago, Lewis’ last start after winning the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and seizing the No. 1 ranking. Lewis closed with a frustrating 73 at Kia and tied for ninth.

“I told her on the back nine at Kia, she hit three shots that were worse than anything she hit in the two days I saw her play at Phoenix,” Dale said. “I was expecting to see a lot more reaction from her than I did. She said, ‘You know, I was really proud of how I handled myself on the back nine. It would have been really easy to take my putter and hit my bag, but I didn’t do it. I think I kept myself fairly calm, but I did go in the locker room and beat myself up pretty bad for about a half-hour afterward.’

“She’s not totally there, but she’s getting better.”

Controlling emotions under pressure also ought to help Lewis deal with the demands of being No. 1.

She said the new demands after she won Phoenix were significant.

“It’s been chaos, with all the requests and all the attention,” Lewis said. “I expected it, but it was a little overwhelming. I was glad we had a week off last week so I could clear my head and get away and take some time off and just clear my head. Coming back this week, I feel really relaxed.”

When it comes to the demands that go with being No. 1, Lewis doesn’t want her scowl for those duties. She wants to enjoy them.

Lewis said she learned lessons watching Tseng struggle with the role.

“She had a couple bad weeks and let it become a burden staying at No. 1,” Lewis said. “I’m just going to have fun with it. I am going to have some bad weeks and some good weeks, but I’ll have fun with it.”

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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.”