Offseason wait is 'finally' over at Open

By Rex HoggardOctober 9, 2013, 3:54 pm

The long wait is over. Golf is finally back.

It’s been over a fortnight since the PGA Tour held a stroke-play event, and the better part of three days since the best and brightest dueled in the mud at Muirfield Village.

If that’s a tad too snarky for you we’ve come by it honestly. It’s not that the Big Leagues are off and racing again some 18 days after Henrik Stenson hoisted FedEx Cup glory at East Lake. That’s always been the case since the playoff era began in 2007.

Professional golf’s offseason has always lasted about as long as a half-time show at the Super Bowl. The error message this time around is that this week’s Open is being billed as an “Opening Day.

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If the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the traditional season opener since 1986, had a soft-opening feel to it, this week’s stop at CordeValle is more like a split-squad spring training bout.

If the field at the Open wore jerseys, there would be a lot of 58s and 97s on the tee sheet, fine players all of them but you really shouldn’t expect to see many of them when the Tour hits prime time again next spring.

This isn’t a knock on the Open, a quality event with a big purse ($5 million) on a hard and fast golf course, or the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open or McGladrey Classic or OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which will follow the “season opener” into the fall.

By every measure these events are improvements over what they were last season, post-Tour Championship afterthoughts adrift in the fall abyss. Each of the fall events now carry full FedEx Cup points and an invitation to the Masters, upgrades by any measure.

But the competitive reality of the Tour’s new split-calendar schedule will leave these freshly emboldened fall stops with fields that look a lot like the fields they had when they were entrenched in the Tour’s no-man’s land.

This week’s tee sheet in California, for example, doesn’t include a single player from the top 25 in the world ranking and just three – Hideki Matsuyama (No. 30), Jonas Blixt (34) and Billy Horschel (35) – from the top 50.

Officials in Las Vegas, Sea Island, Ga., and Mexico should expect a similar turnout despite the added cachet of full points and dramatically increased purses. Although the Open purse remained unchanged, moving under the FedEx Cup umbrella meant the Las Vegas stop (from $4.5 million to $6 million), Sea Island ($4 million to $5.5 million) and Mexico ($3.7 million to $6 million) all had to write bigger checks this time around.

And for what? In the case of the Open, three of the top 50 players? By comparison, last year’s field at CordeValle had a similar feel with just two – (Ernie Els (No. 22) and Nicholas Colsaerts (35) – of the world’s top 50 players.

Along with the upgrade of the four fall events – the Sanderson Farms Championship, normally played opposite the Open Championship, will join the fall line-up and kick off the 2014-15 season – the CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions in Asia also joined the FedEx Cup fold, a move that at least partially explains the weaker fall fields particularly at The McGladrey Classic which will be played the week after the World Golf Championship event in China.

The European Tour’s lucrative four-event Finals Series also begins this month with the BMW Masters in China, which virtually assures the top players from the Continent will not play the Tour’s domestic fall schedule.

But then the move to the split-calendar schedule was never billed as a boom for the fall events. Whatever improvement the fall fields enjoy it is little more than a byproduct of a more profound restructuring that included a new qualifying system and the addition of the Asian events to the circuit’s official portfolio.

From the Tour’s perspective, this year’s sweeping changes had a cascading impact on the overall product if not the fall fields.

“The important thing was the ability to restructure the entire calendar. Once you start going down that road , then you look at utilizing this part of the year to really get the FedEx Cup moving,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently told “Starting with the (Open) getting point distribution so when you get to the holidays you’re already getting sports fans early in the winter into what the FedEx Cup is about.

“Now we will have pretty good history getting to the holidays. The holidays are a pretty good promotion platform. We think that will enhance the FedEx Cup.

Whether that equates to better fields for the fall events in future years remains to be seen. But in the short term, this week’s event still feels more like spring training than opening day.

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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.”