The Bear's Club preps young guns for Tour stardom

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2015, 2:56 pm

Some would consider this classic name-dropping.

“It’s been big for me. This being my rookie year I didn’t really play with many big [named] guys [before],” Justin Thomas said recently. “Down at The Bear’s Club, I’ve played with Camilo; I’ve played with Luke and going out and playing with MJ.”

Morgan Hoffmann added, “Keegan’s [Bradley] around, but he plays with Michael most of the time. There are so many guys.”

Of course, “MJ” would be Jordan, Michael not Spieth, along with Villegas and Donald and whatever other “A” list professional or celebrity who lops up on the first tee at The Bear’s Club.

But for the likes of Thomas, Hoffmann and Patrick Rodgers it’s less about the name than it is the game when it comes to their adopted Tour home.

Consider it on-the-job training.

For the up-and-coming threesome – who set out today at the AT&T Byron Nelson in search of a spot in the elite 20-something club that currently includes Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy – South Florida’s Bear’s Club is like a never-ending PGA Tour combine.

As stressful as Tour life can be for a newcomer – Hoffmann is playing his third year in the big leagues, while Thomas is a rookie, and Rodgers is closing in on Tour status – it’s nothing compared to the nerves one will face on the first tee at The Bear’s Club.

“At The Players, playing with Graeme [McDowell] and Sergio [Garcia] I wasn’t too nervous,” said Thomas, who is currently 39th on the FedEx Cup point list with five top-10 finishes. “Last year, it would have been, ‘Wow, I’m playing with Sergio today. This is going to be big.’ That for me has been the biggest thing.”

The ready-made games also add for a rare level of familiarity on Tour at times when things normally feel as foreign as the metric system, like earlier this month when Rodgers found himself in contention at the Wells Fargo Championship.

He set out on Sunday in the penultimate group paired with Thomas and despite a tough finish at Quail Hollow – he played his last two holes in 3 over to finish tied for second – the week moved him closer to his goal of playing the Tour.

“It was like just hanging out playing at The Bear's Club,” Rodgers said. “I was telling my caddie walking off the first tee it almost didn't feel like a tournament, playing with Justin in a twosome. We had a lot of fun. We're both really lucky. This means a lot to us.”

But as beneficial as it is to punch a clock next to the likes of Donald, Bradley and McIlroy, who all call the Bear’s Club home, it’s the internal competition that gives the would-be world beaters an edge.

The three have regular games back home, something simple like a Nassau or just a team match, and normally it doesn’t even involve The Bear’s Club’s championship layout. The trio often eschews the 7,164-yard layout for the facility’s par-3 course.

At just 1,133 yards, with the longest hole little more than a 7-iron for most Tour players, the par-3 course fulfills two needs for the likes of Hoffmann and Thomas – a place to hone their short games and perfect their trash talking.

“Justin and I go to the par-3 course pretty much every time we’re home and try to kill each other,” Hoffmann said. “We’ve really been pushing each other and we’ve really gotten a lot better because of it.

“My wedges when I first turned pro were terrible, but they’ve gotten a lot better.”

Along with Hoffmann’s wedge game, he said his trash talking has also improved thanks to Thomas.

“Every hole, it’s great. There are really not many compliments. Just putting each other down to pump the other guy up,” Hoffmann said. “He’s so skinny and small, he has to have something to back it up.”

Thomas had a slightly different take on the games as well as an interesting glimpse into what those rounds must be like.

“On the par-3 course there’s really not much competition [with Hoffmann]. I beat him every time,” smiled Thomas with only a hint of good-natured ribbing.

For Thomas, who at 5-foot-10, 145 pounds possesses an uncanny ability to bomb it with the best on Tour, he comes by his ability to talk trash naturally and it’s allowed him to fit in at The Bear’s Club like a 20-year Tour veteran.

“I take pride in being able to talk more crap than anyone else,” Thomas said. “I sometimes get on guy’s nerves. I definitely irritated some guys on the team at Alabama. I just think it’s a part of it. You’ve got to go out and have some fun. That’s why I go out and play with MJ and those guys. We talk a lot of trash and it gets me more prepared.”

MJ, Rory, Keegan.

For the likes of Thomas, Hoffmann and Rodgers it’s not so much about dropping names as much as it is trying to add there’s to the list.

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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.”