The Science of Second

By Rex HoggardJanuary 28, 2009, 5:00 pm
There is an Art of War, courtesy Sun Tzu, and an Art of Winning, courtesy Americas Cup skipper Dennis Conner. But nowhere in the vast libraries of sports psycho-babble has a thoughtful scribe penned a how to tome on the science of coming in second.
And make no mistake, it is a science.
Truth is, for those who elbow their way into contention at the games highest level only to fall short its a science of silence. Its an ongoing turf war to quiet the questions. Will I ever break through? What could I have done better? Was it nerves or circumstances or fate that cost me a photo op with the over-sized check?
On Sunday, Pat Perez answered all those questions with a towering 6-iron on the 90th hole at the Bob Hope Classic that nestled within 6 feet of redemption. That meltdown at Pebble Beach in 2002 is now history. Its a subject that the Tours non-conforming rock star has no interest in ever addressing again, either internally or from the dogged media who seemed to dredge up the episode every time he found himself within a chip shot of the lead.
If I got to answer any more Pebble questions after this . . . I mean, it's up to you guys, Perez sighed five minutes into his Hope post-game. I hope you guys will drop it.
Whether Perez struggled with the demons of Pebble or not is between Double P and his well-paid sports psychologist. Whether John Merrick, who bogeyed the 17th hole and parred the par-5 finishing hole on Sunday to finish three shots behind Perez, will struggle with his runner-up Hope showing is not much of a mystery.
Late Sunday, just hours after concluding his round at PGA West, the third-year Tour player joined a group of friends in Palm Springs for dinner. The group neither ignored the near-miss elephant in the room nor over-analyzed his best Tour finish.
There were so many positives for the week, said Jamie Mulligan, Merricks longtime swing coach. We noticed if we set up a compound and get comfortable with our surroundings, when we chill out he does a lot better.
Its sports psychology 101. Draw what you can from the positives and leave what remains to those of lesser resolve.
In practical terms, Mulligan viewed Sundays happenings as a once-in-a-lifetime learning tool. There is no way to realistically recreate the pitch that comes when playing for history on a Tour Sunday, so when you have the chance you draw from every ounce of the experience.
Your sitting heart rate is 70. If you could ever learn to play at 66 or 67 youd play unbelievable, Mulligan said. Most young players operate at about 120. To get in that situation gives him a chance to learn what its like.
There is a fine line, of course, between learning from history and being haunted by it. For most sports psychologists its expectations that dictate how players deal with disappointment.
I think it has a lot to do with how youre set up to begin with, said Sea Island (Ga.) Resorts Dr. Morris Pickens, whose stable of Tour players includes Zach Johnson. I dont talk to my guys about winning; I talk about getting into contention. Sometimes youre going to play well and not win.
Playing well without a trophy to show for your efforts is part and parcel of the pro package. For anyone not named Tiger Woods, any winning clip south of the Mendoza Line is reason to celebrate.
Success, at least in psychological terms, is measured in baby steps. What happens, more so than what was won, is more important to your average sports psychologist.
Guys learn from their tendencies. Some guys might try to get too protective and start guiding shots and some guys slow down, Pickens said. Its all about your tendencies. Ive had players that have been there and failed and then it becomes you want to be in that position again with an opportunity to pull it off or fail.
Do you want to have that chance again to win the game? Or do you not want to be there? You have to deal with it a lot.
Of course, failure ' particularly the high-profile variety that comes with booting a Tour title ' has no shelf life. Many point to Phil Mickelsons well-versed stumble at Winged Foot in 2006 as the ultimate case study.
Prior to Winged Foot Mickelson had finished outside the top 10 just twice in his previous nine majors, including three victories, at the 2004 and 06 Masters and 05 PGA Championship. In the 10 majors since that Sunday in suburban New York Lefty has the same number of top 10s and missed cuts (two).Those inside Camp Phil bristle at the notion that he is haunted by corporate tents and missed tee shots, but the results are unmistakable.
At an extreme level, some players say, I cant get over this, said Dr. Gio Valiante, whose Tour clientle includes the likes of Chad Campbell and Chris DiMarco. Golfers have experiences that they cant get over and there are a lot of reasons for that. The question is what they do with the experience the first day or two after that. If you drive that memory into your mind and relive it chances are it will resurface.
In fairness to Mickelson, his 34 Tour titles are testaments to his ability to close under pressure and his 21 runner-up finishes are well short of the also-rans posted by Jack Nicklaus (58) or even Woods (24). Whatever long-term impact Winged Foot will have on his Hall of Fame career can only be weighed after the closing credits have rolled.
Lacking a Second place for Dummies guide, the only slide rule capable of measuring the impact of Merricks Hope miss will occur the next time his name inches its way onto a Sunday leaderboard. When it comes to the science of second, theres no way to know what awaits Merrick.
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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.”