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DJ motivated to keep No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardFebruary 14, 2018, 10:03 pm

LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday, Dustin Johnson joined an exclusive club.

He didn’t add to his growing trophy collection. In fact, he actually dropped a surprising decision at Pebble Beach on Sunday after taking a share of the lead into the final round, but we’ll circle back around to that.

On Tuesday, DJ became just the fifth player to hold the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for a full calendar year, joining the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.

To keep things in context, the ranking has been around only since 1986, but it’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless considering the parity in golf at the moment. Not that Johnson sounded as if he was spending much time relishing his tenure at the top.

“On Mondays usually," he said when asked how often he checked the ranking. "That's about it, though. Just to see what's going on. I still don't really understand them, but I could read ‘[No.] 1.’”

Like most things with DJ, compartmentalization is often confused for indifference.

Johnson pays more attention to the mathematical formula than he lets on, even if, like most of us, he doesn’t perfectly understand the countless computations.

“He likes it, being world No. 1, and he’s adamant about keeping it,” said Johnson’s swing coach, Butch Harmon.

In recent weeks Johnson’s status atop the world heap has been challenged by Jon Rahm, who could have ascended to the top spot at either the Farmers Insurance Open or last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am depending on DJ’s finish despite the Spaniard not playing last week.


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Although he often comes across as aloof when he talks publicly about the ranking, there was an edge to Johnson's voice Wednesday as he prepared for this week’s Genesis Open.

It was Johnson’s five-stroke victory last year at Riviera Country Club that elevated him to the top of the mountain and started a torrid run that only an untimely spill on the eve of the Masters ended.

“It's nice. It's been a tough year,” Johnson said. “Obviously starting here I was playing really, really well, and then the injury at Augusta kind of derailed me a little bit.”

Johnson won his next two starts, both World Golf Championship events, after the Genesis Open, and arrived at the year’s first major the consensus favorite before falling in his rental house and injuring his back.

It took about a year for Johnson to feel fully healthy again and he opened this year with another commanding performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight strokes.

Although last week’s runner-up showing at Pebble Beach, where he closed with an even-par 72 to tie for second place, was surprising considering his status as a front-runner, it was also an interesting indication of the state of his game.

“Last week I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, but I still was there in contention with a chance to win on Sunday, which shows me that my game is definitely getting back to where it was,” Johnson said. “It feels better today than it did last week, so that's really good.”

Actually, Harmon said Johnson’s game was closer to 70 percent last week, particularly his driving which is always a gauge of how he’s playing.

But he’s close. Close to being back at his best and to the level where he was when he scorched the PGA Tour last spring.

“It’s pretty close, .5,” he said to compare where his game is now to 12 months ago. “I feel just as good as I did last year.”

Harmon took a slightly more detailed approach.

“It was a little better at this point last year. He’s been skiing and last week he was a little off and just needs to fine tune some things,” Harmon said. “But I can see him having the same momentum [as he did last year].”

And that might be the biggest difference between DJ 2017 and the current model. While all of the tumblers were falling perfectly into place at this point last year, this time around seems a little more calculated.

Even last week when he lost to Ted Potter Jr., who was plying his trade on the Web.com Tour 12 months ago, was an encouraging sign.

But most of all he’s motivated. He’s motivated to ride another wave of momentum down Magnolia Lane, motivated to stay healthy and, yes, absolutely motivated to maintain the top spot in the world ranking.

“It's definitely difficult to stay No. 1,” Johnson said. “The guys out here are very, very good and there's a lot of very talented players. But for me, I use it as motivation to keep working harder and to keep doing the things that I'm doing.”

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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.”