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Tiger's U.S. Open win at Torrey is why we hold out hope

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 9:41 pm

SAN DIEGO – Even after 10 years, the memories flood back with surprising clarity.

It’s been a decade since the roars echoed through the canyons all the way down to Black's Beach, and for many in this week’s field at the Farmers Insurance Open, it probably feels like a lifetime has passed.

But for anyone who was lucky enough to have attended the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the total recall is uncanny.

Even on Wednesday, as Tiger Woods slowly made his way around the North Course – which doubled as a staging area and parking lot for the ’08 Open, albeit a parking lot with idyllic views – one couldn't help but think back to that historic major that no one wanted to end.

For all of Woods’ accomplishments at Torrey Pines, where he’s won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times, it’s the ’08 U.S. Open that defines his legacy; and as he readies for yet another comeback from injury and surgery, it’s why so many fans remain enthusiastically optimistic.

The ’08 Open is where he endured a broken leg and severely damaged ACL to force a playoff against a most endearing antagonist, Rocco Mediate. It's where the duo finished 72 holes tied at 1 under par on a brutally difficult South Course and remained all square after an 18-hole playoff on Monday. And it's where Tiger finally prevailed on the first sudden-death hole for his 14th and (to date) final major championship.

Asked what he remembers from that historic week, Woods on Wednesday offered a somewhat subdued response: “How much it hurt," he said. "Yeah, no ACL and broken leg, it didn't feel very good.”

Those who watched him make the amazing look almost mundane offer a different take.

“I remember seeing him in a practice round and you could see how he was limping,” recalled Brandt Snedeker, who tied for ninth that week. “I was thinking there’s no way he’s going to play with that knee. He’s not going to make it, from what I saw of him, walking around and hitting balls and wincing.”

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On Saturday, when Woods charged into contention with a birdie-eagle finish to take the 54-hole lead, Snedeker was just a few groups in front of the then-world No. 1. He was in The Lodge just up the hill when Woods chipped in for birdie at 17. He didn’t see it, he heard it.

“It was one of those things that only Tiger had the ability to do, and I remember thinking it was unbelievable,” Snedeker said. “I remember watching and hearing the roars and seeing the highlights. How did he do that?”

And, of course, there was Woods’ birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. It’s become an iconic moment, shown repeatedly in slow motion, as his golf ball tumbled over countless bumps to somehow drop into the hole and spark a vicious double fist pump.

Being the ultimate competitor, Woods’ mind isn’t drawn to such moments. Instead, he recalls the things he could have done better.

“I do remember starting off every day either with a double bogey or bogey on the first hole, so I think I was 7 over par in just my first hole I played in that day,” Woods said with a smile.

It’s not the chip-in late Saturday or the countless recovery shots that saved his title chances from the jaws of defeat that stand out to Woods. His mind doesn’t work that way.

“I made everything that week. I really putted well,” he said. “I hit it okay, but if it wasn't for my putting, I wouldn't have won that Open.”

What Woods did a decade ago at Torrey Pines redefined the game. On one leg, against golf’s deepest field, on what is widely considered the most demanding U.S. Open venue in years, he moved within a Grand Slam of equaling the most unbreakable of records – Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championships.

It’s not as though Woods has been completely absent since that glorious summer day in ’08. He claimed his second FedExCup in 2009. He won five times on the PGA Tour and took home the Player of the Year Award in 2013.

But if this Tiger, reborn following lower back fusion surgery last April, is to resume his quest for major No. 15, the ’08 Open will be remembered as the line of demarcation, the moment when everything stopped being easy, or at least the moment everything stopped looking easy.

The current generation of stars remember that U.S. Open only as a footnote in history. The likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm had just reached their teenaged years in ’08. There's already a generational gap. But for those who were there, who watched Woods make the impossible seem insanely probable, that Sunday and Monday featured the kind of moments that define a career, even a career as decorated as Tiger’s.

On Monday morning, as Mediate and Woods set out for the final chapter in an epic text, Snedeker was sleep walking his way through the San Diego airport when he noticed a large crowd gathering around a television.

“Everybody in the airport was in the bar watching the playoff,” Snedeker said. “You don’t realize when you’re in it what a big deal it is when Tiger is in it. But there were people missing their flights watching that playoff. People standing in bars, 10 deep, watching that. It made me realize what an impact he has on golf.”

Being back at Torrey Pines a decade removed from that instant classic also makes one realize why the idea of Tiger 2.0 is so intoxicating.

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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.”

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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.”