Getty Images

'World flair' tops star power on Day 1 in Mexico

By Rex HoggardMarch 2, 2018, 2:15 am

MEXICO CITY – The opening round of the WGC-Mexico Championship definitely had a “world” flair, with five different countries represented among the top 10, but it wasn’t exactly the star power we’ve come to expect from a World Golf Championship.

There was your leader Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), followed by Chris Paisley (England), Xander Schauffele (United States) and Shubhankar Sharma (India) tied for second; while Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand) were knotted at 5 under and in fifth place.

Missing from that United Nations lineup was world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson, No. 3 and the PGA Tour’s most recent winner Justin Thomas, No. 4 Jordan Spieth and No. 5 Justin Rose.

In fact, there were just two players from the top 10 in the World Ranking, No. 2 Jon Rahm (seventh) and No. 7 Rickie Fowler (tied for eighth), among the top 10 when play finally concluded in fading light after a 30-minute lightning delay.

“Any player here can have a good day and shoot a good round,” said Oosthuizen, who was bogey-free on Thursday for a 7-under 64.

These are world-class events and by definition a collection of the globe’s best and brightest, but history shows that these WGC soirees go to chalk more times than not. The last six winners of this event, which moved to Mexico from Doral last year, include Johnson (who has won twice), Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods (a seven-time champion) and Rose.

Instead, Thursday at Chapultepec Golf Club delivered a mixed bag of compelling, if not little-known, players and just as many out-of-character performances.

Johnson, for example, had two bogeys and a double-bogey and played the par 5s, which he feasted on last year on his way to victory, in 1 under par.

“I had some really good holes, I had some really bad holes. I felt like I was just struggling all day, just grinding,” said Johnson, who finished with a 2-under 69 and is tied for 13th. “When I did have good looks, I made them, which definitely kept my score at least respectable. The way I hit it, I probably should not have shot 2 under.”


Full-field scores from the WGC-Mexico Championship

WGC-Mexico Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Consider Paisley, who describes himself on his Twitter account as a “diminutive golfer from Newcastle, the anti-DJ. The Englishman, who began this year ranked 289th in the world and is playing his first WGC and first PGA Tour event this week, ranks 35th in the field in driving distance.

“I was delighted with the score, and obviously it's the biggest tournament I've played in by a long stretch,” said Paisley, who finished first, fifth and fifth in his first three starts on the European Tour this year. “To play as well as I did and shoot a great score against the world's best players and to be right up there, I'm just delighted.”

Thomas, who is fresh off his eighth Tour victory last week at the Honda Classic, couldn’t say the same thing. He posted more bogeys (three) than birdies (two) for just his third over-par round (72) of the year and is tied for 39th in the 64-man field.

“It's probably the worst I've ever felt over the ball in my life. It's a helpless feeling just because it's a course that you feel like you can score, make a lot of birdies on,” Thomas said. “I really kind of started on Tuesday, wasn't swinging it very well, and then yesterday I just was hitting it awful. It's just one of those days where kind of everything wasn't going my way and not playing well definitely added to that.”

Sharma, who like Paisley is making his first Tour start and at this point last year was plying his trade on the Asian Tour, had no such problems with his swing or Chapultepec and was a perfect 6-for-6 in scrambling on his way to a 65.

There were moments of normality early on Thursday when Bubba Watson, who won his last start at the Genesis Open and already has a WGC on his resume (2015 HSBC Champions), moved to 7 under for a two-stroke lead following three consecutive birdies at the turn, but the left-hander’s unraveling was as sudden as it was spectacular when he played Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in 4 over par to plunge down the leaderboard.

To be fair, Oosthuizen is hardly a journeyman and he’s certainly comfortable on the biggest stages (see Open Championship, 2010); and Rahm, who finished third here last year in his debut and can overtake Johnson this week as world No. 1 depending on a variety of scenarios, has emerged as a bona fide world-beater. It’s just that since their inception, the World Golf Championship events have largely been the domain of the game’s most recognizable players, a dependable catalyst that produces predictably impressive contenders and champions.

The billboards around Chapultepec understandably include the likes of Johnson, Spieth, Fowler and Thomas. By comparison, neither Paisley nor Sharma even have pictures or bios to go along with their scorecards.

But then, while it might be billboards that sell tickets and generate interest, it’s the names on the leaderboard that count once the competition has started, whether that lineup includes a superstar cast or not.

Getty Images

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.

 

 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”