The other side of The Open coin: Kuchar's perspective

By Rex HoggardJuly 26, 2017, 6:17 pm

Perspective can be relative. Consider Jordan Spieth’s 13th hole on Sunday at The Open. You know the one that took more than 20 minutes for the Golden Child to play a shot and will be a highlight reel special for the next 20 years.

For Spieth, the foul-ball tee shot and frantic moments that led to an unlikely bogey was nothing less than a sea change in the round, a shift so dramatic it would carry him all the way to the claret jug.

For the fans who watched the surreal episode it was historic, like “The Shot” by Michael Jordan during Game 5 of the 1989 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers, or “The Catch” when San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana found Dwight Clark in the end zone during the ’81 NFC Championship Game. It was the kind of moment you tell your grandchildren about.

But there’s another narrative, another player whose part in Sunday’s duel will be largely overlooked but is no less important.



When Spieth rolled in that 8-footer for bogey at the 13th hole it moved Matt Kuchar into sole possession of the lead, one-stroke clear of the eventual champion.

“I didn't lose any momentum,” Kuchar said following a final-round 69 at Royal Birkdale. “All of a sudden I now have a one-shot lead after that hole in the British Open with five to go. I'm playing really well. Hitting a lot of good shots. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. And he just ... he really turned it up.”

Spieth would play the next four holes in 5 under to pull away from Kuchar, a run that included a 48-footer for eagle at No. 15 and a 25-footer for birdie at the next.

Late Sunday as he tried to process those frantic final moments, Kuchar struggled for answers. During that same run that propelled Spieth to victory, Kuchar was 2 under par and yet he lost ground.

“It's crushing. It hurts,” Kuchar admitted. “You work so hard to get to this position. And to have a chance to make history and win a championship, you don't get that many opportunities. And to be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it's a hard one to sit back and take.”

At 39, this was Kuchar’s 47th major and while he’d been close before, most recently at this year’s Masters when he tied for fourth place, this Birkdale Open was the first time he’d been in position to control his own destiny late on a Sunday.

He’s won seven times on the PGA Tour, including the ’12 Players Championship, but this was different, this was a chance to make the monumental leap from good to great.

A consummate teammate on both the U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, Kuchar’s ever-present smile and “aw-shucks” demeanor belies a dogged competitor with a quick, and sometimes biting, sense of humor.

“That smile is not, 'hey, how’re you doing?' Let's put it that way,” said Zach Johnson, a longtime friend and St. Simons Island, Ga., neighbor of Kuchar’s.

There’s a saying in sports that wealth and desire are very much mutually exclusive, and the golf landscape is littered with players who lost their edge after becoming financially comfortable. Kuchar is not that player.

In golf terms, Kuchar is a competitive ATM, having finished in the top 10 on 90 occasions in his career and he’s earned more than $40 million to rank 13th on the all-time cash list. That total puts him ahead of the likes of Justin Rose, Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy.

But on Sunday as he made his way to the scoring hut, his head spinning and his title chances finally dashed with a closing bogey, it wasn’t Kuchar’s desire that was broken, just his heart.

Kuchar’s wife, Sybi, and children, Cameron and Carson, were supposed to be in Colorado, but they’d flown to Southport, England, for the final round and were waiting for him. Kuchar called it a “teary surprise.”



Spieth, who had just claimed the third leg of the career Grand Slam with his epic finish, noticed.

“I think Cameron is his oldest, he was in tears,” Spieth said. “At that moment I'm so happy. And at the same time I see that and I thought to myself, man, put this in perspective, he's a dad. I'm not a dad, I don't think that way. And I was able to kind of get a little glimpse into what that's like.

“Matt didn't lose the tournament at all today. He played well down the stretch. I believe Matt Kuchar will win a major championship. And I believe that he'll do it sometime soon.”

The 2017 Open will be remembered for many things, but for Kuchar it was a deep-dive study of how perspective can be relative.

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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.”