Finchem balancing Trump, politics, new sponsor at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2016, 10:05 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Before Donald Trump ever arrived at Doral last week, Adam Scott – the eventual WGC-Cadillac Championship winner – wistfully hoped that golf could stay above the political fray.

“Hopefully they don't intersect at all,” he said on Wednesday after being asked about the intersection of golf and politics. “Should be the beauty of sport.”

Scott did his part to maintain a separation of sport and state, closing with a gritty 69 for a one-stroke victory, but as a surreal Sunday unfolded it became increasingly clear that the game’s apolitical aspirations might not be possible.

With apologies to Scott and the world’s other top players, the biggest buzz last week was created when Donald Trump’s helicopter settled onto the adjacent golf course just before the final group went off on Sunday.

The GOP front-runner worked the crowd, both inside and outside the ropes. He stopped to speak with third-round leader Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson moments before they teed off. Trump smiled for fans and subtly reminded those in golf that you may or may not like his politics, but you do have to work with him.

McIlroy said as much on Wednesday when asked about the possibility of not playing a Tour event next year at Doral. After a thoughtful pause, the Northern Irishman showed an impressive level of political savvy.

“This time next year if [Trump] is president it would be silly for the Tour not to keep some sort of relationship with him,” McIlroy said.

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who is no stranger to politics after working for the Jimmy Carter administration, seemed to acknowledge as much on Sunday – both in his words and his actions.

“Our relationship [with Trump] is good,” Finchem said. “We try to compartmentalize these things, but in terms of his focus on the game, on some of the facilities around the country and internationally, he brings a lot of energy to it. He's done a lot of good things.”

Following his news conference on Sunday, Finchem met with Trump at Doral to discuss the future of the south Florida stop. Cadillac’s sponsorship of the event ended last week and there were no indications the Tour was poised to name a new sponsor.

According to various reports, the Tour’s contract with Doral runs through 2023, but there is a stipulation that a new title sponsor would have the right to take the tournament elsewhere.

But then Finchem has been to the mat numerous times in his career with sponsor issues, and more often than not he finds a way to grind out a victory – much like Scott did at Doral.

For the Tour and Finchem the task at hand goes well beyond saving the circuit’s south Florida stop or even “making Doral great again,” a tongue-in-cheek line circulated by players and caddies last week.

Trump, in his not-so-subtle bombastic way, also suggested as much.

“My relationship [with golf’s ruling bodies] is very good, I’m also the front-runner [for the Republican presidential nomination],” Trump said. “Being the front-runner people like you more than if you were No. 12.”

Last year when Trump’s presidential campaign was just getting started, golf’s ruling bodies – including the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and USGA – took a stand when the businessman-turned-candidate made derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants.

In a joint statement the governing bodies said Trump’s comments were, “inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

On Sunday, however, Finchem appeared to make the distinction between distancing the game from a particular candidate and simply keeping golf outside of the political landscape.

“We work very hard to not be involved in presidential politics, not be involved in partisan politics generally,” Finchem said. “We don't think it's in the interests of what our fans want to see us do or be. The same thing with our players and candidly, we don't think it's smart.”

But walking the fine line of abstract objectivity becomes more complicated for an organization like the Tour when a potential commander in chief has become such a large part of the golf universe.

Distancing yourself from derogatory remarks is understandable. Distancing yourself from a sitting president is unacceptable.

“I would be very good for golf [if he were elected] because, very simply, I love the game,” Trump said. “If you had a president who didn’t like golf that would be a very different thing, but I’ve been good for golf.”

How a Trump presidency would help golf is unclear, particularly considering there is a long line of golfers who have occupied the White House.

But much like that larger-than-life helicopter that stole the spotlight on Sunday, Finchem recognized the obvious.

“For any head of state to show an interest in golf is a positive thing,” Finchem said.

Finchem may be able to remain above a contentious campaign cycle, but he understands better than most that he can’t sidestep political realty.

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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.”