Tour brethren celebrate Fowler's breakthrough

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2012, 1:08 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “Trust it Rickie,” caddie Joe Skovron whispered in a tone loud enough to be heard across Quail Hollow’s 18th-green amphitheater.

As if a 23-year-old has reason to second-guess. Sure he’d heard the drumbeat of doubt, the type of overtly critical analysis manifest with unrequited expectations. As recently as last Wednesday Rickie Fowler had reminded the media masses that he’d be a fifth-year senior at Oklahoma State had he not traded dorm life for a day job on the PGA Tour.

On Sunday Fowler painted Quail Hollow’s “Green Mile” OSU orange, a walk-off win fit for a phenom with equal parts drama, heartbreak and heroics, the latter coming courtesy a wedge shot at the first extra hole that nestled to 4 feet for his PGA Tour breakthrough.

It was apropos that a victory that seemed so long in the making would go to extra innings. That the collection of Tour frat brothers lingering about the 18th green following the one-hole playoff was a testament to Fowler’s popularity, which always ran deeper than his mass marketing exterior.

“It’s so great that Rickie won,” said Gerry McIlroy, notable because he is the affable father of Rory, who – along with D.A. Points – Fowler defeated in extra frames after finishing 72 holes tied at 14 under.

Now that’s appeal. And it shows how those within the game viewed Fowler’s rise, which was criticized in some circles for its languid pace. So much so that out of the gates on Wednesday Fowler was poised with a ready answer when asked about his winless schneid.

“I won the (2011) Korean Open,” he smiled.

In retrospect the kid’s redirect was a telling precursor to his Wells Fargo victory, having gone head-to-head with McIlroy in a Sunday shootout last year in Korea.

But not many figured this was Rickie’s week. Not when he began the final turn two strokes behind a cruising Webb Simpson with the likes of McIlroy, who won this event in 2010 for his maiden Tour tilt, and Nick Watney laying in wait.

But when Simpson faltered out of the gates, making the turn in 1 over, it quickly became the Rickie & Rory show when Fowler birdied the 12th to grab a share of the lead and he moved clear of the field with a two-putt birdie at No. 15.

Yet even then there were doubts when he went from bunker to bunker at the 16th to drop out of the lead with the rest of the “Green Mile” looming. When his slicing, downhill 20-footer for birdie at the last slid by it seemed Fowler had come up short, again.

From a small room in the sprawling Quail Hollow clubhouse Fowler watched his fortunes change in rapid order. First Points pushed his approach right of the last green and made his first bogey of the weekend and McIlroy forced the second playoff in as many years in Charlotte when his 16-footer for birdie missed wide.

In the playoff it was all Fowler. A drive to 133 yards, a bold 51-degree wedge to 4 feet, a birdie on a hole that yielded just five sub-par scores on Sunday, a breakthrough so long in the coming.

“Rickie and his caddie picked a good club. They picked a club that was either going to go there or it might go in the creek,” said Points, who closed with a 71 for his best finish since his victory last year at Pebble Beach. “To hit that shot, that was the kind of club he needed. The shot he hit was spectacular.”

Quintessential Fowler – colorful and entertaining.

Although Fowler had said he wasn’t bothered by those who doubted his ability to win, on Sunday, with a chalice secured, he relented.

“There’s definitely some relief,” said Fowler, whose closing 69 featured six birdies and three bogeys. “There were times when I felt like I pushed a little bit, whereas this week I sat back and waited for it. . . . There are a lot of people who said I’d never win so it’s nice to shut them up a little bit.”

No one has ever doubted McIlroy, who despite opening with two bogeys in his first four holes seemed destined for his second Wells Fargo title until a sloppy bogey at the 17th hole.

In his first tournament since the Masters the Ulsterman showed the kind of power and precision that will make him a favorite at this week’s Players Championship, and beyond.

“To come back after three weeks off and get myself in the mix. I gave myself a chance to win, which was nice,” said McIlroy, whose runner-up showing pushed him back atop the world golf ranking. “It gives me a bit of confidence going into next week.”

One player who won’t be overflowing with confidence when he wheels down TPC Sawgrass Lane will be Tiger Woods, who endured just his eighth missed cut as a professional following rounds of 71-73 and is now heading to a golf course that has been anything but friendly confines.

Woods hasn’t finished the week the last two years at The Players, withdrawing in 2010 and 2011 with injury, has contended just once on the Stadium Course in the last decade and is searching for his first win there since 2001.

“First wins,” however, are no longer a concern for Fowler, who now has substance to go with all that style.

“It was going to be sooner or later and I’m just glad it was sooner,” said Ben Crane, who joined Fowler on the 18th green for the victory celebration. “I wouldn’t have wanted it to start bothering him.”

Skovron had it right, we just had to trust it.

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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.”