Tseng, Garcia battling inner demons on the course

By Randall MellSeptember 4, 2013, 2:24 pm

They grapple more openly with their demon doubts.

They make public confessions about the battles waged between their ears more than most professional golfers dare.

Sergio Garcia and Yani Tseng are such different personalities, but they are so much alike in how they will bare their souls to the world in sharing their struggles. Whether you’re endeared to the honesty, or think it weakness, there’s no denying we’re more intimately connected to the kind of struggle the game presents its top players because these two have intimately connected us.

They let us into their pressure-packed worlds between the ropes in ways we don’t normally have access.

They make winning and losing more visceral, maybe even more human to the rest of us.

That’s why there was something so compelling in the way the stars were aligned over golf last week.

Garcia and Tseng were linked to the same disappointing fate. Though they played on opposite coasts, some 3,000 miles apart, they endured the same agonizing experience. They blew chances to win. They took 54-hole leads into the final round and collapsed.

Their demons beat them.

That’s the thing about both of their losses. Garcia and Tseng didn’t look like they got beat so much as they beat themselves. That’s not to take anything away from winners Henrik Stenson and Suzann Pettersen. It’s just that Garcia and Tseng never gave themselves a chance with their wayward final-round starts.

It was gut-wrenching, because they both looked so poised to break out of funks.

First, on Sunday at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore., Tseng, 24, looked shaky from the start. She made double bogey at the second hole, then bogey at the third and another bogey at the fourth. A day after shooting 63 to take a three-shot lead, the former Rolex world No. 1 stumbled to a 78.

Tseng’s winless spell now stretches over 37 LPGA events.

Then, on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Garcia, 33, was doomed by his own shaky start. He bogeyed the second hole, the fourth and made the turn in 3 over for the round. He was never a factor with players going low on the soft TPC Boston setup. He shot 73. Nobody who finished T-35 or better shot a higher score in the final round.

Garcia hasn’t been the same since he got himself in trouble with his racial crack about Tiger Woods in late spring. He made the remark after tying for eighth at The Players Championship in May, and hasn’t been a factor in an event since, not until Boston.

“I just wasn’t comfortable,” Garcia said of his Monday stumble “I just wasn’t able to trust myself as I did the first few days. It was hard, but I tried.”

It was difficult to watch, because Garcia looked so ready to win after shooting 65, 64 and 65 in the first three rounds. Same with Tseng, who shot 67 and 68 before her 63 leading into the final round.

In so many ways, these two players wear their hearts on their sleeves. There’s no hiding what they’re feeling. It makes them both fun to watch when they’re at their best, but almost as compelling when they’re struggling. They are like open books, easy to read, their body language so colorfully articulating what their hearts are filled with.

And that’s really the question looming over their games in the wake of their final-round failures. What are their hearts filled with these days? The promise that came in the way they got themselves into contention? Or the self-loathing that can come with blowing a chance?

Tseng’s heart took a beating in her slump and free fall in the world rankings. She confessed early this year that the pressure to meet expectations as the Rolex world No. 1 overwhelmed her. She said the criticism and second guessing when she began to swoon hurt her.

“Everybody wants to be No. 1, but nobody understands how hard it is,” she said earlier this year. “I looked at the media, what fans were saying, and it drove me crazy.”

Back in April at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, on the night before Stacy Lewis ended Tseng’s 109-week run at No. 1, Tseng confessed she welcomed shedding the burdens that go with the top ranking.

“It will be a good release for me,” Tseng said back then.

In Portland last weekend, Tseng was asked about the challenge of shaking her slump.

“It’s a really long story,” Tseng said. “I go through a lot of things, and my life has been really tough. It’s not just about golf.”

Garcia told the whole world back in ’09 that his heart was broken by his breakup with Greg Norman’s daughter, Morgan-Leigh. His game swooned so much that he announced he was taking a break from the sport and didn’t play in the Ryder Cup in 2010.

At the Masters last year, Garcia’s frustration in failing to win a major got the best of him when he shot himself out of contention in the third round at Augusta National.

“I’m not good enough,” he famously said. “I don’t have the thing I need to have. The conclusion is I need to play for second or third place.”

It was a low moment, but the words have dogged him because they so powerfully revealed the nature of the demon doubts that challenge him.

You’ll hear golfers talk about how winning is often about a player’s ability to get out of his own way. Nobody embodies that more than Garcia and Tseng these days. They seemed to get in their own way in those final-round failures, blocking and frustrating themselves.

Winning, of course, is tough at the highest levels. There’s ridiculously so much more losing than winning in golf. It has to be the sport with the most scarred athletes, albeit scars you can’t see.

The game beats players up, but Garcia and Tseng are still in there fighting, looking to beat their demons as soundly as they beat fellow competitors. They manage to make that fight more meaningful in the way they’ve drawn us into the struggle with them.

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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.”