Park comes back to top Lincicome in LPGA playoff

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2014, 1:15 am

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Inbee Park’s putter trumped Brittany Lincicome’s driver.

The old adage that you drive for show and putt for dough was powerfully on display Sunday during the final staging of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

With Lincicome overpowering Monroe Golf Club with her driver all week, Park successfully defended her title stealing the final scenes with the smallest club in the bag. Park won the way she always wins. She won making more clutch putts than everyone else.

Two shots down with two holes to play, Park ultimately prevailed in a sudden-death playoff, defeating Lincicome with a par on the first extra hole. It’s the fifth major championship title of her career, her fourth over the last two seasons.

“It definitely feels like a big honor, to actually put my name on the trophy twice, and obviously to defend my title,” Park said.

Park, 26, won her first LPGA Championship in a playoff last year. She beat Catriona Matthew at Locust Hill. She lost in a playoff last week, beaten by Mirim Lee at the Meijer Classic.

“It’s almost like I’m getting used to being in playoffs,” Park said. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs. I felt more comfortable.”

This farewell event, the last to be staged in the Rochester area after a 38-year run here, was bound to end in tears, but they were harder to wipe away for Lincicome, who seemed to have this championship in hand coming down the stretch. She gave the golf-loving fans here more golf than they expected, and more drama and bonus action than she would have liked.

“I just need to learn how to control the nerves a little bit more,” Lincicome said. “I was really, really nervous coming down the stretch, especially the 18th hole and then the playoff.”

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Sitting back in the 18th fairway at the end of regulation, Lincicome watched Park coolly hole a 12-foot putt to save par. Park wouldn’t go away on the back nine. She holed an 18-foot birdie at the 17th to pull within a shot.

In the end, Lincicome, 28, confessed nerves were a large factor in her bid to win her sixth LPGA title, her second major. She’s been winless for the last three years.

Needing a par at the 72nd hole to win, Lincicome slightly tugged a 6-iron just off the left side of the green, on the fringe, leaving herself a birdie putt of 30 feet. She made a poor stroke there, sending a groan through the bleachers when she left the putt 8 feet short, setting up her closing bogey.

“I was shaking like a leaf,” Lincicome said. “It’s hard to do anything when you’re shaking.”

It probably didn’t help that Lincicome had a long wait before she got to make that first putt at the 18th at the end of regulation. She had to wait for Suzann Pettersen to sort out a drop in the rough by the grandstand before she could play.

“It did take forever, but I think it was actually giving me time to kind of calm down,” Lincicome said. “I had my caddie go get me water, and I took a couple of sips, took some extra practice strokes. It was more just the lie. It was up against the collar of some thick rough. Most times, with those putts, you either blow it by, or you leave it way short. Unfortunately, I left it short.”

All week long, Lincicome shrunk the course, launching towering drives at every turn to take control of this event. In the end, her short game betrayed her.

The playoff came down to that.

Both Lincicome and Park missed the 18th green on the first extra hole. Park chipped out of some deep rough to 3 feet. Lincicome ran her chip 6 feet past the hole.

After Lincicome’s putt for par grazed the left edge of the cup, Park was a sure thing from 3 feet.

“Today, overall, I just felt so comfortable,” Park said. “I felt like it was just the third round, almost. I just felt no nerves.”

Park said her nerves kicked in before the playoff began, but she settled herself quickly.

“I flashed back to how I won last year in a playoff,” Park said.

Lincicome was nearly flawless with her driver Sunday, hitting every fairway she looked at with it. Her short game, though, was also an issue early on the back nine.

Three shots up at the 12th tee, one of the par 5s she had dominated all week, Lincicome hit her second shot into the grassy face above a front, greenside bunker. She barely popped her ball up over the face, leaving herself in light rough at green’s edge. She chunked a chip out of it, setting up a bogey. She was 12 under on the par 5s all week, and that was her only bogey at a par 5.

For Park, it was sweet winning another major after losing a two-shot lead on the back nine at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last month. It was sweet following up her terrific run in the majors last year with her first major championship title this year.

“I think this year was always going to be a tough year, after having such a great year last year, and trying to match that this year, and match the expectations I had last year,” Park said. “I feel like, so far this season, I've really handled myself well in this position. It feels like I've played some good golf.”

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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

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Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.

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Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  

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Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.