Sei Young Kim upstaging LPGA's Big Three

By Randall MellApril 5, 2015, 2:27 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Move over, Big Three.

Sei Young Kim is threatening to crumple that storyline and pitch it in a garbage can.

She’s looking determined to lead a rewrite of what the big story will actually be when this LPGA season ends.

This might be the best crop of rookies ever to play the LPGA, and Kim might end up being the best of them.

Big Three Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis look like they’re going to have their hands full this season.

With a 3-under-par 69 Saturday, Kim held off early charges from Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome. At 10 under overall, Kim is three shots ahead of Lewis (68) and four ahead of Pressel (71), Lincicome (70) and Thai rookie Ariya Jutanugarn (66). 

Kim was at her best in the end Saturday while Pressel, Lewis and Lincicome all struggled to close out their efforts.

Tied for the lead on the back nine, Kim birdied two of the last three holes.

Growing up in South Korea, Kim said she watched this championship when it was known as the Kraft Nabisco.


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“If I win tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever,” Kim said through a translator.

At 22, Kim isn’t your typical rookie, and this isn’t your typical rookie class, a group led by a cast of up-and-coming South Korean stars.

Kim was a proven champion before going to the American-based LPGA Q-School in December and earning membership with a tie for sixth. She won five times on the Korean LPGA Tour over the 2013 and ’14 seasons, one of them a Korean major. After joining the American tour this year, she didn’t take long to assert herself. She won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in a playoff in her second start. Now here she is again, with a chance to win her first major.

“I'm really having fun,” Kim said. “I'm getting a kick out of it because this is a tournament that I've watched since I was young. To be here playing, I can't believe it.”

Kim said she has never won while holding a lead going into a final round. All five of her Korean titles were comeback victories.

Kim will be paired with Lewis on Sunday. All the South Koreans know who Lewis is, a former world No. 1 and two-time major champion who won her first LPGA title here at the Kraft Nabisco in 2011.

“She’s just such a dominating force out there,” Kim said of Lewis. “I'd probably even chicken out starting a conversation. But you know, just to be able to play with her on the final day, it's an honor.”

Two weeks ago, Lewis took on South Korean rookie Hyo Joo Kim in a brilliant Sunday duel at the JTBC Founders Cup. Lewis played well, but Hyo Joo Kim played better to take the trophy.

“We knew they were coming,” Lewis said of the South Korean rookies. “Inbee and some of the girls were kind of telling us that there were some young Koreans coming that were pretty good. We didn't really know what to expect.

“You can tell they've got a lot of experience from playing in Korea, and they know how to win. They know how to putt, which is most important. They're impressive, especially Hyo Joo Kim. I threw everything I had at her in Phoenix and she kept responding by making putts and hitting shots. They're not scared, not scared at all.”

Four of these South Korean rookies are ranked higher than major champions Paula Creamer and Mo Martin in the Rolex world rankings. Two of them won LPGA events before officially joining the tour as rookies this year.

Hyo Joo Kim is No. 4 in the world. She won the Evian Championship last year while playing the Korean Tour. If Sei Young Kim wins the ANA Inspiration, South Korean “rookies” will have won the last two majors.

Sei Young Kim is No. 22 in the world rankings, Q Baek No. 17 and Ha Na Jang No. 20.

Baek, 19, won an LPGA event last year, the HanaBank Championship. It was the first LPGA event she ever played. She played as Kyu-Jung Baek, just recently changing her name upon claiming 2015 LPGA rookie membership off her HanaBank title.

Sei Young Kim said there’s motivation keeping up with the other South Korean rookies.

“They're all players that I've played with, competed with in Korea,” Sei Young Kim said. “The media sort of portrayed us as fierce rivals. So, I'm used to playing them. Seeing them playing well definitely motivates me. It’s very, very motivating.”

These South Korean rookies have to be motivating the Big Three, too.

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More sun, dry conditions expected early at Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 9:14 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – An atypically dry Scottish summer is expected to continue this week at The Open.

There’s a possibility of a few showers Thursday and Friday, but otherwise conditions are expected to remain dry with temperatures around 70 degrees and winds in the 15-20 mph range.

The forecast for the opening round at Carnoustie is sunshine with clouds developing later in the day. The high is expected to be around 70 degrees, with winds increasing throughout the day, maxing out at 18 mph.

There’s a chance of rain overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, but it’s not expected to slow down the fiery conditions.

It’s been one of the driest summers in recent memory, leading to fairways that are baked out and fescue rough that is lighter and thinner than in previous years.

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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.