Horschel cashes in with Tour Championship win

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2014, 12:10 am

ATLANTA – Remember that 6-iron?

You know, the one that laid sod over Billy Horschel’s second shot on the 72nd hole at the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago and sent social media into a frenzy?

Well, on Sunday at the Tour Championship that same maligned 6-iron, along with the 13 other more non-descript implements in his bag, helped lift the outspoken Horschel to the Tour Championship title, the FedEx Cup crown and an $11.4 million payday that just a month ago seemed unlikely for anyone outside of his inner circle.

Horschel has now lost a U.S. Open wearing octopus pants and won the PGA Tour’s season-long race wearing your grandmother’s drapes.

Call it “Billy Ho Golf,” complete with a clutch 30 footer on East Lake’s 16th hole for par under gloomy skies to turn the final march, and the mathematical madness that normally defines the season finale, into a Sunday stroll.

There were the occasional awkward moments like when officials explained to Chris Kirk, the points leader coming into the Tour Championship who finished second in the season-long race, that he needed Horschel to finish in a tie for second place to claim the FedEx Cup, but when the eventual champion arrived at the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead the checks were already being printed.

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Not bad for a guy who slipped to 82nd on the point list after missing the cut in the post-season opener in New Jersey. From there, however, he was nearly unstoppable, finishing tied for second to Kirk at TPC Boston after that infamous 6-iron found the hazard at the last, and then swept the rest of his starts with victories at the BMW Championship and East Lake.

It was a signature victory for Horschel, who has struggled to contain his emotions in the past. Particularly considering that he set out on Sunday tied with McIlroy for the lead and the GDP of a small nation hanging in the balance.

But with each round the normally excitable Horschel played the role of a flat-liner, oblivious to the ubiquitous leaderboards and the endless collection of FedEx Cup scenarios that dotted East Lake as well as the mounting pressure of playing for a $1.4 million winner’s check and $10 million FedEx Cup bonus cash.

“I woke up this morning and had this sense of calm over me, which is unusual,” said Horschel, who closed with a 68 for a three-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy.

That sense of self likely built when he birdied Nos. 4 and 5 to maintain his advantage, but a bogey at the 10th hole dropped him to 10 under, and when Furyk birdied the 15th hole the two were tied atop the year’s final leaderboard.

The lone moment of suspense came when Horschel fanned his drive right of the 16th hole, and he was forced to punch out. The traditional buzz that grips the finale each year on Sunday ignited.

Among the litany of potential outcomes the most surreal involved Rickie Fowler, who would have created a nuclear scenario of a playoff for the title and a separate overtime for the FedEx Cup, when he pulled to within a stroke of the lead early, but he rinsed his tee shot at the sixth and finished his top-5 year with a rare eighth-place finish.

Less than 10 minutes later McIlroy’s magical season essentially ended when his 5-iron found the depths on the same hole to drop the Northern Irishman three strokes out of the lead, and his pursuit of the one thing in professional golf, other than a Masters’ title, that has eluded him.

“I really wanted to win. I really wanted to cap this year off well, even though it's still been a great year,” said McIlroy, who closed with a 71 and finished the year third on the FedEx Cup point list. “You know, I was coming in here with really high hopes and expectations, and I haven't quite been able to play the golf to live up to those.”

Maybe the U.S. team does have a chance later this month at the Ryder Cup if McIlroy drives the ball at Gleneagles like he did on Sunday at East Lake, but don’t count on it.

Of course, Tom Watson may also be wishing he’d have saved one of those captain’s exemptions for Horschel. Over the course of the playoffs “Billy Ho” outplayed the three U.S. picks – Keegan Bradley (who didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship), Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan – by a combined 37 strokes.

Or maybe Paul Azinger should have sent “Cracking the Code,” his tome to the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, to Captain Tom.

But that’s not a concern for Horschel, whose scrambling par at the 16th hole gave him a one-stroke cushion followed by back-to-back bogeys for Furyk to close his round and set the stage for the anti-climactic finish.

“Billy was out ahead all day, and I just couldn’t case him down,” said Furyk, who won the 2010 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.

For a player who had endured a self-described pedestrian year, before the post-season Horschel had just two top-10 finishes and told his wife just three weeks ago he couldn’t wait for the 2013-14 season to be over, it was the ultimate Cinderella playoff tale.

That a player whose mind has a tendency to race ahead closed out the event with so much on the line only made it that much more compelling.

“Every night I’d send him a text, ‘Holes 1 through 18 are done. Same plan for holes 19 through 36, then 37 through 54 and so on. You have to keep the same mind set,” said Horschel’s swing coach Todd Anderson, the first to coach two separate players to the FedEx Cup crown (Brandt Snedeker, 2012). “(Horschel) can get broad picture really, really quickly.”

As for that much-maligned 6-iron and the fallout from his Boston letdown.

“I’m not afraid of what people say,” said Horschel, whose wife, Brittany, is due with the couple’s first child in two weeks. “Maybe it gives me a little chip I can prove people wrong and that I have what it takes to get the job done.”

Point made.

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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.”