Putting a wrap on a stellar West Coast swing

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2016, 1:00 pm

LOS ANGELES – Before the year’s final redeye flight, it’s time for a few West Coast revelations. From Maui to Monterey, the PGA Tour’s annual Left Coast swing didn’t disappoint.

Most improved. When the WGC-Match Play Championship packed up and headed east (Austin, Texas) for the warmer confines of spring it left a hole in the West Coast lineup that was filled by the circuit’s annual soiree to Tinsel Town.

With five of the world’s top 10 players and 60 world ranking points going to the Northern Trust Open winner, the Los Angeles stop wasn’t just the best event on the West Coast this year, but the deepest field in golf in 2016.

“This is definitely going to be a regular for me on the schedule going forward. I really enjoyed it so much,” said Rory McIlroy, who played Riviera for the first time. “The golf course is great, but the area, staying in Santa Monica and having the beach there, there's so many great things to do.”

West Coast dreaming. Whether you count Hideki Matsuyama’s victory over Rickie Fowler at the Waste Management Phoenix Open as an upset – the Japanese player was ranked 19th in the world when he outdueled Fowler in a playoff – the Left Coast produced its share of surprise champions.

Fabian Gomez stunned Brandt Snedeker to win the Sony Open and Vaughn Taylor (above) won for the first time in more than a decade at Pebble Beach when he finished a stroke ahead of four-time Crosby winner Phil Mickelson.

The new time zones also helped change the narrative for the 30-somethings. Five of the seven West Coast winners were in there 30s, including the last two Watson (37) and Taylor (39).

Bon Appétit. West Coast exit fare normally starts with fish tacos at the Brigantine in Del Mar, Calif., the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, and ends with a late-night dinner at In-N-Out Burger (double-double, animal-style, please).

But new digs emerged this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Slappy Cakes in Lahaina, Hawaii, is worth the 13-hour trip from the East Coast.

The Hawaiian pancakes with banana, pineapple, macadamia nuts and whipped cream are the perfect remedy for jetlag.

Tale of two Jordans. Jordan Spieth won by eight strokes to start his year in Maui and missed the cut by five shots after an opening-round 79 at Riviera.

In between he showed flashes of inspired play mixed with mediocre results, all of which seemed to be the likely byproduct of a hectic schedule that stretched from Hawaii to the United Arab Emirates and back to California.

Bounding up the hill two steps at a time following his second-round 68 at Riviera, however, he seemed to suggest he wasn’t too worried as golf inches toward the major championship season.

“I guess Rory is considering this the start of his run to the Masters. This was not my start to the run at the Masters. Mine will start the next time,” he smiled.

Something Left. For a guy who has won more on the West Coast than anyone not named Tiger, Phil Mickelson likely wouldn’t consider this year’s swing a victory, be it moral or otherwise.

But after a difficult few years, his tie for third at the CareerBuilder Challenge and runner-up showing at Pebble Beach were signs of progress for a player that doesn’t have much left to prove.

Torrey tough. Snedeker likely shot the round of the year (69) in brutal conditions on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open, not that many will remember by the time we reach September.

To put Sneds’ final round in perspective, he beat the field average by 8.9 strokes, which was the most shots better than the field by a winner in the last 20 years on Tour.

“It's like playing a British Open on a U.S. Open setup. This course is so tough, it's blowing 25 mph, gusting out there and windy and rainy conditions, it's really tough,” Snedeker said following his final round.

Snedeker had to wait nearly 24 hours after completing his round before being able to hoist the hardware, but at least he wasn’t on that golf course any longer.

Maui magic. They say timing is everything, which should be good news for the folks at Kapalua who enjoyed the deepest field in a decade as well as an endearing champion in Spieth.

After Hyundai announced it would replace Northern Trust as a title sponsor of the Los Angeles stop next year, that left the folks in Maui searching for a replacement title.

The good news for fans of sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and whale watching is after one of its most successful years in recent memory the Tour’s year opener will be an easier sell to any potential replacement.

405’ed. Kudos to the Northern Trust Open folks and tournament director O.D. Vincent for transforming the L.A. stop into a must-play event, but logistically the tournament ranks just behind the likes of Bethpage Black and Merion in degree of difficulty.

There’s not an event on Tour that challenges one’s patience, both on and off the golf course, like Riviera.

“If someone compares the traffic in [Atlanta] with LA you know one thing about that person. They've either never been to [Atlanta] or never been to LA,” Roberto Castro tweeted on Friday.

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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.”