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Exploring the PGA Tour's top basketball talent

By Rex HoggardFebruary 16, 2018, 10:30 pm

LOS ANGELES – Bubba Watson completed his second-round 70 at the Genesis Open and bolted Riviera Country Club in search of a rare daily double – a spot near the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard and MVP honors at the annual NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

“I wasn't very good at dribbling [in high school] so I definitely didn't dribble it up,” Watson smiled as he rushed off property just three strokes off the lead to participate in the annual celebrity game, which was played at the Verizon Up Arena at the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of NBA All-Star weekend. “I just played outside, played on the wing, tried to shoot 3-pointers. I can shoot, I have a little bit of touch. So it worked out when I was in high school. When I say ‘worked out,’ I made one out of 20.”

Although Watson certainly qualifies as a celebrity and is married to a former WNBA player, with apologies to the 6-foot-3 southpaw, there was a real sense that golf wasn’t exactly sending its best to the celebrity game - at least according to the results of a wildly unofficial Twitter poll.

Early Friday, your scribe offered his version of the PGA Tour’s all-hoops team – a squad that included Watson, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth and Chris Wood – but the reaction from many of the circuit’s best and brightest painted a much different picture.

Smylie Kaufman, who was the point guard on his state high school championship basketball team during his junior year in 2009, was one of the first to offer his services at point guard before allowing, “[Jordan Spieth] and I have epic games of H.O.R.S.E. Usually he makes a ridiculous shot to win. Weird.”

Chesson Hadley, a 6-foot-4 player with some reach, also got into the act: “I certainly have the height to play but would probably be dominated in the paint. I’d like to be considered for the guy that runs the bench celebrations.”

It turns out the depth of basketball talent runs much deeper than one might expect on Tour.


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Although Johnson, who declined an offer to play in Friday’s celebrity game, can still dunk, and at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, would be a natural swingman; and Woodland, who set a 3-point shooting record as a freshman at Washburn (Kan.) University before transferring to Kansas to play golf, were easy early picks, Tony Finau might be golf’s best.

“We’d have a pretty mean team, not a lot of height but we’d have a solid top 5,” said Finau, who added that he plays pickup basketball three to four times a week in the offseason and can still throw down two-handed dunks.

Finau, who is also in contention at Riviera following a second-round 71, played center in high school and helped his team reach the state tournament his junior and senior seasons, averaging 11 rebounds per game as a senior.

“Have to throw Finau and [Andrew] Loupe in there. [Kaufman] can get buckets, too,” Thomas tweeted.

Harris English echoed that endorsement, “[Russell] Henley and Loupe need to be in that lineup.” While Ricky Barnes made his own pitch, “I must be a reserve but I will play my way into the lineup soon.”

It turns out that Loupe is something of a sneaky good option in any all-hoops Tour draft as evidenced by Harold Varner III’s offer to coach the team.

“I would love to coach, it would be awesome,” Varner smiled before his second round at Riviera. “Already have my first pick, Tony [Finau]. Second pick would be tough, probably DJ, but Loupe is good, man.”

Loupe earned all-state basketball honors in Louisiana twice and was invited to the Louisiana All-Star game, averaging 21.6 points per game during his senior season and setting his high school’s all-time record for 3-pointers in a season.

Spieth, who reportedly has some legitimate shooting range and whose brother, Steven, plays professional basketball in Argentina, would be a popular pick, but the social media scouting report suggests he may be better suited coming off the bench.

According to various sources, Henley is a pure shooter and would likely be the sixth man; while 6-foot-4 Jamie Lovemark – who is also in the top 10 through 36 holes at the Genesis Open – was a popular choice to replace Wood, who at 6-foot-5 is the Tour’s tallest player but doesn’t appear to have much experience on the hardwood having grown up in England.

While there seems to be no shortage of talent to represent golf on the NBA’s most star-studded stage, it will be Watson who received the nod for Friday’s celebrity bout. Although he may not top the list of Tour ballers, he did get one piece of solid advice from his wife, Angie.

“She said, ‘Don't get hurt,’” Watson smiled. “She said, ‘If you go in the paint, you're in trouble.’ I was a Ryder Cup vice captain [in 2016], that's what I enjoyed, so I'm not afraid to give an assist. I'm scared of shooting. I'll just pass it real fast.”

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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.”