Mickelson Woods provide a fitting end to the season

By Rex HoggardSeptember 28, 2009, 5:21 am

THE TOUR Championship by Coke 2007 LogoATLANTA – The year of coloring outside the lines finally stayed on script.

The same game that gave us Angel Cabrera over Kenny Perry at Augusta National, Lucas Glover over Phil Mickelson and David Duval at Bethpage, Stewart Cink over Tom Watson at Turnberry and Y.E. Yang over Tiger Woods at Hazeltine Naitonal delivered a double matinee worthy of all the playoff hype.

After two high fastballs the Tour never sniffed to begin the playoff experiment, officials were treated to a timeless walkoff courtesy Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods on Sunday at sun-splashed East Lake. Alpha, meet Omega.

Mickelson won the battle, a three-stroke victory at East Lake to cap an emotional year, while Woods won the war, a second-time FedEx Cup champion despite a pitched Sunday afternoon that taxed pocket calculators and prognosticators everywhere.

For Woods, the FedEx Cup is a fitting end to a year that began with more uncertainty than many understood and yet again validated those endless hours with swing coach Hank Haney on Isleworth’s practice range retooling for the long haul.

As for Mickelson, he simply putted like he did when he was a kid, and on Sunday he played like one – fearless and undaunted by a four-stroke deficit and an all-star cast assembled between himself and that crystal keepsake.

Things didn’t start well for Mickelson. He played ping-pong at the 14th hole on Thursday and took an eight, had not graced a Tour leaderboard since that rainy week in June on Long Island, and at one point early in the proceedings he was nine strokes off the lead.

“Even when I was playing hockey there on 14 Thursday, you know, slapping the ball all around the green, I still felt much better about my game and I was excited about playing even though I wasn't getting out of my round on Thursday what I should have,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson – who missed much of the summer schedule to stay at home with his wife, Amy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer – followed his opening 73 with rounds of 67-66. However, he still seemed an afterthought heading into the final turn at East Lake, thanks to Perry’s near-flawless play on Saturday and Woods’ dogged pursuit.

On Saturday, Mickelson made little signs out of big ones on the 13th hole, side kicking a marker to splinters. Who knew his next action would be a high-flying haymaker to East Lake’s short field?

Mickelson birdied two of first four holes on Sunday, dropped two more before the turn to overtake a sputtering Perry and never let up on the pedal on his way to his second Tour Championship title.

With a commanding two-stroke lead at the turn, Phil thrilled and the chorus that met him on the closing nine had a Bethpage feel to it. New York, new south? Same difference.

Perhaps the only off-script portion of the proceedings occurred behind the 16th green on Sunday. With his ball nestled into a nasty Bermuda grass lie, Mickelson lofted his 64-degree wedge shot into the hole. A defining moment, to be sure, but the winner in Mickelson’s bag for the week was his putter thanks to a bold suggestion by his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay and two enlightening days with Dave Stockton last week in Southern California.

Discouraged by poor putting that didn’t allow him to make the most of his retooled and tighter swing, Mickelson met with Stockton at the urging of Mackay who reinforced many of the same concepts Lefty embraced when he was younger – hands forward, club head straight back and straight through. The results were unmistakable – a tie for third for the week in putts made distance and second among the 30-man field in putting with just 107 attempts.

“(Stockton) said, ‘Nobody will putt as well as you and I with our hands like that because we're leading with the back of our hand,’” Mickelson said. “Once he said that, I said, yeah, that's right, I've always believed that. So I went back to it, and it's been a night and day difference for me.”

As for that Chuck Norris action, the viewing public shouldn’t be surprised considering Lefty has incorporated martial arts into his fitness routine for years.

“Phil has the capacity to be a first-degree black belt,” Mickelson’s uber-cool fitness guru Sean Cochran said. “But he can’t take me down. If he says that don’t believe it for a minute.”

Instead, Mickelson took down the field at East Lake and added to his impressive Georgia resume that counts victories at the Masters, the now-defunct BellSouth Classic and the Tour Championship.

Yet as impressive and inspiring, as Mickelson’s victory was, it shared equal billing with the week’s undercard, the FedEx Cup.

The forecast for most of the week called for cloudy skies with a chance of abject boredom thanks to Woods’ near-flawless form. The world No. 1 opened with 67, followed with middle cards of 68-69 and seemed poised to roll past Perry on his way to the season-ending two-fer, the FedEx Cup and another Tour Championship for an $11.3 million four-day haul. Not bad work if you can get it.

But then what SubAir and suspect math created, neither Mother Nature nor Mickelson could put asunder.

Woods made a final run at Mickelson with birdies at the 15th and 16th holes and an agonizingly close near miss at the 17th hole with Lefty watching closely from the final tee, but he finished three shots back and alone in second place.

Woods had said the ‘W’ was what counted, everything else would follow, but that $10 million FedEx check ($9 million in cash and $1 million differed) will likely soften the blow.

“I'm sure I would probably be more happy tomorrow than I am right now, because you're in the moment trying to win this event,” said Woods, who was undone at East Lake by an unproductive week on the greens. “When you're in the moment out there, I'm trying to win a golf tournament, I'm trying to beat Phil, he's trying to beat me, Kenny, Sean (O’Hair), we're all there, and it was just a great leaderboard. Come tomorrow, I'm sure I'll feel a lot better.”

Tomorrow he won’t be putting on the same table-top greens. Welcome to East Lake, a place where bunkers are no longer aiming points and grain is not just a Midwest staple. As a result, the playoff finale was Putting 101. Sean O’Hair thrived in Round 1 thanks to a putting tip from Woods on Wednesday and Mickelson closed the regular season with a flourish thanks to an encouraging two days with Stockton all because the 7,300-yard gem produced a putting contest. And no one suffered more from this certainty than Perry.

On golf’s Super Bowl Sunday, Perry was the halftime show. The man who can be found on many days behind the counter at Country Creek, the golf course he built in his Kentucky town, seemed in control at a wash-and-rinsed East Lake for three rounds. On Sunday, he looked awash in uncertainty.

Perry’s outward loop on Sunday had a used car lot feel to it – save, save, save – thanks to missed greens at nine of his first 11 holes. That is until the magic finally ran out. He chopped up the birdie-friendly ninth hole, stumbled at the 11th hole and never took a putt on his way to double bogey at the 13th. It all added up to 74 and a tie for fourth.

Perry’s consolation prize for the week was the Payne Stewart Award, which he’d been presented earlier in the week. But it was little solace.

East Lake was Perry’s second near miss in Georgia this year, but that Masters miss will likely linger much longer in the southerner’s psyche.

At the other end of the emotional pendulum is Mickelson, adrift for much of the season by much more important matters at home and vexed by streaky putting for so long.

On Sunday, he finally delivered. On Sunday, golf finally delivered.

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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.”