U.S. hopes to change conversation with Solheim rally

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2015, 7:52 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – The Americans better not go home without the Solheim Cup again.

They won’t like what’s waiting for them.

No U.S. Solheim Cup team has lost three consecutive times, and so you can be sure any postmortem won’t be pretty.

The Solheim Cup used to be a celebration of everything that’s right with American women’s golf, but another loss turns that dynamic on its head. All of a sudden it’s a shining example of what’s wrong. All of a sudden it’s perceived as a window into the heart and soul of the top American women in the game, or the lack thereof.

That’s why what happens Sunday is so magnified now.

And that’s why the American rally in Saturday afternoon fourballs was so important in dramatically tilting how this Solheim Cup may be remembered.

“We really have an opportunity to flip this thing in our favor,” Stacy Lewis said.

Lewis was talking about Sunday morning and the resumption of the suspended fourballs and how the Americans can flip momentum their way going into singles, but she could have been talking about the bigger picture, the way American women’s golf is viewed.

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Falling behind 8-4 after Saturday morning foursomes, the Americans looked like they might be on their way to being embarrassed in another rout, but they rallied hard Saturday afternoon. The American duo of Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson led the way, beating the tough Spaniard tandem of Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz, 3 and 2.

Kerr and Thompson are 2-0-1 in this competition. They’re 4-0-1 as partners dating back to last year’s International Crown, where they were first paired. Lewis, the highest ranked American player, was a large part of Saturday’s rebound, too. She found her form when the Americans most needed it, finding a spark with a new partner, Gerina Piller, who was also a vital component in Saturday’s rally.

The Americans are building momentum, but with the fourballs suspended due to darkness, so much still hangs in the balance in Sunday morning’s resumption of play.

The Americans closed out a victory in one of the fourball matches, but there are three remaining matches, and they’re all tight, with three holes or less to play in each of them. The Americans could end up taking all three for a sweep of the fourballs to pull to an 8-8 tie going into singles. Or they could lose them all and limp into singles down 11-5.

“Tomorrow is obviously really important,” Lewis said. “Going into singles, you don't want to be in our current deficit. We've got to get out there and be aggressive, just like we've been playing today and all week. I think our focus will be there in the morning.”

You could argue there was a time we didn’t make enough of what the Solheim Cup stage means to the women’s game. Now you can argue we make too much.

You want your fans to care intensely about a competition? This is what comes with it. Everything becomes magnified. There will be overreactions to winning, just as surely as there will be overreactions to losing.

We saw the Solheim Cup’s power to magnify evident before the first shot was struck this week. We saw it in two important voices in the sport taking American women to task.

Jaime Diaz at Golf Digest used the eve of the Solheim Cup to evaluate what’s wrong with the American women’s game in the wake of South Korea’s emergence as a force more than a decade ago.

“Among U.S. players – perhaps in self-defense – there’s an increasing drift toward style over substance,” Diaz wrote. “Instagram accounts, good looks and general buzz seem as important as performance, if not more so ...

“The U.S. pattern of becoming a star without commensurate results breeds entitlement and competitive softness. Inevitably, American women are getting outplayed by golfers who have placed substance over style, and simply want it more.”


At ESPNW, Dottie Pepper, the TV analyst and former LPGA star, was equally heavy handed in a story she wrote questioning the way the best American players have approached the Solheim Cup in this era. She criticized “key players” for failing to appreciate the special honor and privilege that is integral to the event. She said she observed an “attitude of inconvenience and entitlement” firsthand as an assistant captain two years ago.

“It's not about face paint and time set aside for team manicures, or whose stilettos cost more and are a quarter-inch higher, or hair stylists and makeup artists,” Pepper wrote. “It's not about the stuff, it's about the substance. It's not about the bling, it's about being there for whatever your captain asks. It is most definitely not about entitlement, but it's about privilege, the privilege of a rare opportunity to do something extraordinarily special – to represent yourself, your family, your fans and your country.”

Double ouch.

Maybe U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster was right. Maybe the Americans should have been the underdogs.

But European captain Carin Koch was right, too. All the pressure coming here was on the Americans because of how three consecutive losses will appear to validate the criticisms of them.

The American women haven’t been able to beat the South Koreans in their sport’s biggest events, and now they can’t even beat the Europeans?

Inkster may well be remembered for how she’s changing things, though. This Solheim Cup might be transformative because of her. Inkster is old school, and it just might be rubbing off on this team. You see it in the simple things, like the way they shake hands after winning holes. Lewis says this American team is more grown up. Kerr says it’s different.

Winning Sunday isn’t necessarily required to validate those things, but nothing will do so more effectively. Rightly or wrongly, losing is sure to be perceived as validation of the criticisms.

There’s no stronger motivation for an athlete than trying to prove critics and doubters wrong. That ought to make this American team one of the most motivated ever.

Winnning doesn’t mean the criticism of this generation of American women is wrong, and losing doesn’t mean it’s right.

Winning, though, has a powerful way of changing the conversation, changing the focus losing will bring.

If the Americans bring the cup home, they’ll bring a new narrative 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.”

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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.”