Watson's few words served him well in 1993

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2014, 9:14 pm

If past performance is any indication, the dozen U.S. Ryder Cup players who board the chartered flight for Scotland on Sunday should not expect an impassioned speech from their captain.

No pleas for unselfish play or jingoistic fervor.

This captain, based on his last turn at the American helm 21 years ago, is far too subtle for that.

If the ’93 Ryder Cup is the ultimate litmus test, and the benchmark for an American side trying to win an away game for the first time since those 30th matches, 65-year-old Tom Watson doesn’t give speeches or hold pep rallies.

Instead, the Hall of Famer communicates a powerful message with an economy of words.

Photos: Ryder Cups 1979-2012

“To me he was so inspiring because he was Tom Watson and he was a legend and he would say cool stuff," recalled Davis Love III, who was a rookie on the ’93 team. "I remember being in the lounge of the Concorde and him saying, ‘Guys, we’re going on a big adventure. This is going to be one of the greatest trips of your life.' It was great.”

In the two decades that have passed since Watson led an American team into the Ryder Cup fray, much has changed. Leaderboards, purses, golf swings have all evolved, to say nothing of the motivations of the modern PGA Tour player.

But the key connection to that ’93 team will be Watson, and much like his ageless swing, Captain Tom’s message will remain unchanged.

“He told us early in the week, ‘We know we’re doing well when we silence the crowd,’” said John Cook, who was also a rookie on that U.S. team.

It was a common theme throughout the week and, many contend, the impetus behind America’s Sunday rally at The Belfry in England.

After falling behind on Day 1, 4 1/2 to 3 1/2, the U.S. lost Saturday’s foursome session (3-1) and was in danger of splitting the afternoon fourball frame until Cook and Chip Beck stunned the crowd with a 2-up victory over European anchors Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie to cut the American deficit to one point.

To put it in modern context, it was the U.S. side’s Ian Poulter moment. And it was during that crucial afternoon when Watson may have been at his understated and obvious best when he approached Cook before his match.

“Tom in his way came up to each of us and said, ‘We want this point. We need this point. We’re not just sending you out,’” Cook said of the fateful fourball swing match. “I looked at him and was like, ‘Really?’ Monty and Faldo had walked through everyone to that point.”

Sensing the momentum had turned, Watson didn’t offer any pearls of wisdom during the team dinner Saturday night. Instead he let a few players talk to the team, including the idiosyncratic Beck.

“Chip gets up and says, ‘The will to win will overcome any mechanical breakdown.’ That’s Chip Beck. It’s just Chip,” Cook laughed. “We all bounded. We became a unit and we were so proud. At that moment I knew we were a solid unit.”

The veteran captain backloaded his lineup for Sunday singles, and slowly the gambit paid off as American flags began to dominate the scoreboard and the partisan crowd grew quieter with each passing point.

The late Payne Stewart started the rally with his 3-and-2 victory over Mark James, but it was Jim Gallagher Jr.’s stunning defeat of European icon Seve Ballesteros, 3 and 2, that likely sealed the victory for the United States.

“I beat Seve; that would be like someone beating Rory [McIlroy] now,” Gallagher said. “I remember making the turn and everything changed and everyone was so much quieter. I guess my match started the ball rolling in our favor. Once you see the American flags up, it gets you fired up.”

Love would also add a late point for the U.S. side on Sunday, solidifying the importance of the rookies on the ’93 team.

While Watson may have been understated in the team room, he was very much a hands-on captain. During the team’s last practice round at The Belfry, he gathered his squad and talked about the importance of winning the 18th hole and told them not to leave the tee on that Thursday until they knew exactly how they were going to play the par 5.

He also stressed the importance of conserving energy and limiting distractions, a common theme among the current crop of Ryder Cup players.

“Paul Azinger had brought a Jenga game and we’d be in there late at night, like midnight, and someone would pull the thing and it would crash down and Tom would walk in and be like, ‘What are you doing? You got to go to bed. You have to practice. You have to fix your backswing,’” Love laughed. “It was like having your dad on your trip. It was great.”

Whether Watson can rekindle that spirit for an American team that has won just two of the last nine matches and lost by an average of 3 1/2 points in the last four Ryder Cups played overseas remains to be seen.

There are some who doubt Watson, 65, has the ability to connect with the next generation of American stars, particularly without the presence of Tiger Woods, who will miss his second Ryder Cup in seven years because of injury.

But for those who last played for Watson, and who hold the distinction of being the last American team to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil, the captain’s cachet transcends generations.

“The coolest thing is we were in the front of the plane and Tom stood there and said, ‘They may have invented the game but we perfected it.’ That stayed with me the entire week,” Gallagher said. “He knew when to say the right things. Those words, some 20-something years later, still ring in my head.”

The dozen players who board this year’s charter on Sunday in Atlanta may be surprised to find out that their captain has little to say, but when he does talk, the message will be powerful and on point.

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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.”