Americans have chance to turn Ryder Cup tide

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2014, 5:30 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – In case of emergency, break glass.

Behind those shards of glass the PGA of America found Tom Watson, the 65-year-old legend that is two decades removed from his last turn as a U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

By reaching back into the archives the PGA, specifically the association’s president Ted Bishop, tacitly acknowledged that the U.S. Ryder Cup process was broken.

With just two victories in the last nine matches the United States had squarely established itself as the perennial underdog and Bishop’s gambit with captain Tom was Outside of the Box 101.

As these things tend to flow, the media quickly latched on to the notion that the competitive relevancy of the event hangs in the balance this week at Gleneagles. It’s a dance most Ryder Cup veterans are accustomed to.

“Even if we win this week, we're still a long way behind what the U.S. have done over the years. We've still got a long way to go,” said Rory McIlroy, defaulting back to the U.S. side’s 25-12-2 historic advantage in the matches.

“The U.S. team are very strong and I don't want to get into ‘if we win’ this week and what will happen. The Ryder Cup will go on whether Europe wins or loses, and it will be just as big and just as great an event either way.”

Although there is no danger of the matches lapsing into the depths of irrelevancy – the crowds that ringed Medinah’s fairways two years ago proved that it’s just not Chicago Cubs fans that are willing to embrace a habitual also-ran – but that doesn’t change the level of concern among those on the red, white and blue side of the transatlantic divide. Why else circle back around to Watson?

And this time around the U.S. team has come by its underdog status honestly. First Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson withdrew from these matches for a combination of physical and mental injuries, respectively; and then Watson’s captain’s picks were undermined by what can only be described as unfortunate timing when Billy Horschel, who wasn’t a pick, blazed his way to the FedEx Cup title.

That an American team hasn’t won an away game since 1993 – which, not coincidentally, was the last time Watson captained a Ryder Cup squad – and the dominant play of Europe’s stars this season have conspired to make the U.S. side a distinct long shot.

When Phil Mickelson was reminded of the U.S. team’s slim chances and his fading Ryder Cup opportunities, however, the veteran seemed to speak for the entire team.

“Are you always this half-empty?” Mickelson asked the scribe. “Is that how you look at things? Because we're more optimistic here.”

Perhaps it’s false bravado, maybe Lefty – who seemed to fire the first shot of these matches with a tongue-in-cheek reference to McIlroy and Graeme McDowell’s ongoing legal troubles on Wednesday – figures it’s best to avoid the negative association that comes with past failures.

Either way, there is a palpable feeling among the U.S. team – and even a few Europeans – that the Continent’s perceived advantage is as thin as the betting slips that have the home team a 4-to-6 favorite.

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the U.S. team has a better average Official World Golf Ranking (16.4) than the European squad (19.9) and Euro captain Paul McGinley’s squad is not without its share of blind spots.

Consider that Ian Poulter, who admitted on Thursday that he scares his own children when he lapses into his Ryder Cup trance, may have been the magician of Medinah when he went undefeated in four matches, but the Englishman posted a single top-10 finish this year on the PGA Tour and broke par in just three of his last 20 rounds in the United States.

Lee Westwood and McDowell have also underperformed this season and rookie Victor Dubuisson has become a paradox of pedestrian play.

Which leaves McGinley – who has a total of four European Tour victories; the same number as, say, Chad Campbell on the PGA Tour – to piece it all together using the mystical winning “template” that has been passed down from captain to captain.

“The template is huge,” McGinley said on Tuesday. “This is not a time for me or Europe to have a maverick captain. It's a time for me to go in, identify the template, enhance it and try to make it better, roll it out again and then hopefully you hand it over to the next captain when he comes into position.”

The U.S. team doesn’t have that luxury and without a spare Paul Azinger layout around – the 2008 captain’s dance card must have been full this week – the PGA opted for Watson to play the role of maverick captain.

It is interesting that if the U.S. team is going to get off the schneid it will likely be the three players who hadn’t attended their first kindergarten class when Watson last won an overseas Ryder Cup that will turn the tide.

Jordan Spieth, who was born two months before the ’93 matches in England, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed will be the U.S. team’s true wild cards. No? Just look at the team’s record in these matches to prove the point.

Mickelson, playing his 10th Ryder Cup, is 14-18-6 in his career; while Jim Furyk is an inexplicable 9-17-4. Whether he likes the idea or not Old Tom has been shoehorned into a lineup that will have to rely on new talent if things are going to go America’s way, which would explain his decision to send Spieth and fellow rookie Reed out in the morning’s third fourball match on Friday.

“I'm a big believer that in the Ryder Cup, world rankings, majors, wins, they are all gone. Everybody starts from scratch,” said Bradley, who will join Mickelson in Friday morning’s anchor match against McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. “I say we are underdogs. But come that first tee, everybody's even from right there.”

Considering the growing sense of urgency among the American contingent the hope is that the paper lion’s advantage ends at that first tee.

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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.”