RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – You can take a ride on Frank Sinatra Drive, Gene Autry Trail and Bob Hope Drive before turning down Dinah Shore Drive to get to the main gate to Mission Hills Country Club.
To win the ANA Inspiration, you leave the 17th green and pretty much merge onto Brittany Lincicome Way.
That’s what they ought to call the 18th fairway here.
Lincicome, 29, played like she owned the hole Sunday winning the ANA Inspiration.
Six years after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship here with an eagle at the final hole of regulation, Lincicome closed spectacularly with another eagle. She sent a roar across the Coachella Valley again Sunday, this time with the eagle getting her into a playoff with Stacy Lewis, a playoff Lincicome won with a par on the third extra hole.
Of course, Lincicome closed it out on the 18th hole. She played the hole four times in a row before coming away with the victory.
“I'm standing here, physically shaking like a leaf still,” Lincicome said after. “It’s over, and I'm still shaking.”
It is Lincicome’s sixth LPGA title, her first in nearly four years.
She prevailed on a wild day of ebb and flow, of unexpected twists and turns.
Lewis and Sei Young Kim traded a staggering five two-shot swings in the final pairing, four in a row on the back nine. They kept trading blows, taking turns with the lead.
“It was a crazy day,” Lewis said. “It was all over the place.”
Morgan Pressel delivered a big shot at the end, nearly holing out for eagle from 99 yards in the fairway at the final hole. She would have been tied for the lead and been in that playoff had her ball found the cup, instead of checking up inches away. She tapped in for a birdie that left her one shot back.
Lincicome delivered the biggest shot of all.
Two shots behind Lewis at the 18th tee at the end of regulation, Lincicome bombed her drive down the middle. From there, she carved a 5-iron from 190 yards to a flagstick tucked back, right. She watched with chills as the ball fed off the slope there to within 10 feet of the flag, to the same hole location she played to when she made that winning eagle in ’09.
“It's just a perfect hole,” Lincicome said. “You land it on the front, it takes that little slope, and I don't think my ball knows anything else other than that, to do. It's done it twice now, so it's pretty incredible.”
Back in ’09, Lincicome hit a grip hybrid from 190 yards to that pin.
There was déjà vu for Lincicome in winning on Easter. The last time this championship’s finish fell on Easter Sunday was ’09 when Lincicome won.
It was sweet redemption for Lincicome, who had a chance to win the LPGA Championship late last summer. Lincicome was two shots up on Inbee Park in Rochester with two holes to play and got beat by Park in a playoff.
“I hadn't been in that position in so long,” Lincicome said. “I just wasn't playing that great. So I just took from that that it was nice to be in contention again. It was nice to have a chance to win a golf tournament again. Just didn't let it get to me.”
There was something special winning this championship with her fiancé watching.
Dewald Gouws teams with Lincicome as quite the power couple. He was the 2008 World Long Drive Championship runner-up. Lincicome is the LPGA’s longest hitter. She goes by the nickname “Bam Bam.”
After Lincicome lost to Park at the LPGA Championship, she left in Gouws consoling arms, back when they were dating, before they were engaged.
“I wanted to win for you babe,’” Gouws remembers her saying. “She said, `I’m sorry, I wanted to win with you there.’”
Lincicome didn’t just get to win with Gouws watching. She leaped into Poppie’s Pond with him, her father, Tom, and her caddie, Missy Pederson. “
“I couldn't have written it any better,” Lincicome said. “It's pretty incredible, A, that he was here, and B, that he got to jump in the pond with me. There are no words.”
Gouws said he was nervous Sunday watching Lincicome put herself right back in the fire, back in another playoff.
“I was shaking,” Gouws said.
Gouws, a strong, hulking fellow, was asked the last time he shook like that.
“When I asked her to marry me,” Gouws said.
That was last December, on a beach in Clearwater.
Gouws, who is from South Africa, didn’t know a whole lot about Lincicome when they first started dating. They met, fittingly, at the 2012 World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada. A friend, Trevor Consavage, introduced them.
Gouws never saw that first eagle Lincicome made. He didn’t even know about it until after he started dating Lincicome and Consavage Googled the shot and showed him a recording.
“I said, `Wow, she’s kind of a big deal,’” Gouws said.
Lincicome’s an even bigger deal now.