Cut Line: Budding Woods-McIlroy rivalry good for game

By Rex HoggardAugust 22, 2014, 3:36 pm

This week’s edition focuses on opportunities, from the looming possibility of a great rivalry between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to what added up to a lost season for many of the PGA Tour’s up-and-coming players.

Made Cut

Rivalries. While it certainly lacks the subtle discomfort that defined Tiger Woods’ decade-long rivalry with Phil Mickelson, and maybe it’s a little too chummy for some, but there is no denying that Tiger’s budding rivalry with Rory McIlroy is good for golf.

Woods and McIlroy joined Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" on Monday where the two traded friendly barbs, and Tiger even referred to the current world No. 1 as the “little fella.”

Not to be outdone, McIlroy shot back when Fallon asked the Northern Irishman what was going through his head before he hit the ball, “I just try to pretend to be Tiger Woods. What would Tiger do?” he smiled.

While this has been a largely one-sided rivalry with McIlroy winning all four of his majors since Woods last hoisted a Grand Slam trophy, the implications and possibilities are clear.

Woods has always been at his best when he has been pushed, and no one in his career has had the potential to push as hard as McIlroy.

Fit for kings. While it may not have the ring of Turnberry or Royal Birkdale, news this week that the Ladies’ Golf Union will hold the 2017 Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns Golf Links is an inspired choice.

After stops at some of the game’s most storied venues in recent years, the event was played at Royal Birkdale this year and St. Andrews in 2013, officials have wisely colored outside the lines to bring Kingsbarns into the fold.

What the Fife-area layout lacks in history, and some purists will argue that it is not a true links course, it makes up for with stunning views of the North Sea and proximity with the course located just 10 minutes from St. Andrews’ city center.

There is only one real rule when hosting a major championship – location, location, location.

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Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A course half full. According to a release issued by Rio 2016 this week the golf course that will host the Olympic Games is 59 percent complete.

According to Cut Line’s math that’s 10.6 holes which seems like progress – we’ve played plenty of 10.6-hole rounds in our day – but this update doesn’t exactly fill folks with confidence that the Gil Hanse design will be at its best when golf returns to the Games in August 2016.

The release went on to say the grass needs “around 11 months to grow.” But last month Rio 2016 unveiled a “tentative” test event calendar and golf’s “test” event, which will likely be a PGA Tour Latinoamerica tournament, was scheduled to begin Aug. 15, 2015.

Construction on the Olympic course began in April 2013, which adds up to a layout that is 59 percent complete after 15 months of work with a “test” event scheduled in less than 12 months.

You do that math.

Playing through. In the hectic final moments of the PGA Championship officials made the curious decision to have Rory McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger join Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson in the day’s penultimate group and play the 72nd hole as a foursome.

With darkness fast approaching there was nothing surprising about having McIlroy and Wiesberger hit their drives on the par 5. Where things get curious is when the two were instructed by officials to also hit their second shots before Mickelson and Fowler completed the hole.

“I was OK with Rory hitting up off the tee and checked with Phil prior to them doing that and he was OK with that,” Fowler said this week. “But we had no intentions or didn't say anything or were going to allow them to hit their second shots into the green, so I'm not sure where the guys at the PGA got that idea.”

“It is what it is and kind of unfortunate. It would have been nice to hit my putt and have a little bit of a better look at it.”

Fowler said he was still waiting to talk with PGA officials about the decision, and added that it likely didn’t have any impact on the outcome of the event. Wanting to finish the year’s final major before nightfall is understandable, but major championships are no place to start cutting corners.

Missed Cut

Lost opportunities. With the Tour’s first full wrap-around regular season in the books, accountants in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., can start crunching the numbers, and there is one total that is particularly troubling.

The final 10 players from last year’s new qualifying system averaged 17.6 starts during the 2013-14 season, and, even more concerning, not one of those 10 finished inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup point list.

Compare that total to the same group in 2012, a combination of Q-School and the Tour graduating class, which averaged 19.8 starts and featured three players advancing to the playoffs.

The issue of limited playing opportunities for the Tour Finals graduates has been a hot topic all year, and officials have zeroed in on a number of factors, including a large number of players using the “major medical exemption” category this year.

“We have had an uptick (in the major medical category), and it has put some pressure on the access to the Tour players coming up; as has the last year or two, the use of the one-time exemption for all-time money,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said this week at The Barclays. “So we are just evaluating it.”

That, however, doesn’t exactly add up either. There were 23 players listed in the major medical category this year compared to 18 in 2012.

Whatever the issue the circuit needs to find an answer. The future of the Tour may depend on it.

The company line. Finchem was also asked, again, about the Tour’s curious decision to comment on Dustin Johnson’s non-suspension late last month.

Johnson announced he was “taking a leave of absence from professional golf” and a day later reported that he had been suspended for failing a drug test, his third failed drug test according to the report. The Tour, which has a policy of not commenting on disciplinary issues, responded saying that Johnson had not been suspended.

“We reserve the right to comment on anything we want to comment about if we think it’s important to do so. In that case, we felt like the information that had floated in the media was incorrect and needed to be corrected,” Finchem said Tuesday.

The Tour continues to cling to the “go ahead and ask, we won’t tell” policy despite strategies by every other major professional sports organization to make disciplinary action public.

In this the circuit seems more interested in protecting its brand than its players. While Tour officials continue to claim otherwise, full disclosure and transparency is a powerful deterrent.

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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.”