NCAA men get good look at brutal finals course

By Ryan LavnerMay 28, 2015, 9:48 pm

BRADENTON, Fla. – The NCAA Women’s Championship looked and felt like the 2014 U.S. Open, and not just because of the penal setup.

This is the first time that the women’s and men’s championships were played on the same course in consecutive weeks.  

At Pinehurst, it was the women who walked inside the ropes in the final round as Martin Kaymer waltzed to another major title.  

Here at Concession, it was the men who strolled the grounds as they got a sneak peek at the championship venue.  

More than anything, what they saw on television, online and in person was a brutal golf course. Southern Cal won the 72-hole stroke-play portion at 40 over par. Only three players finished under par. There was an alarming number of scores in the 80s and 90s, and with that came the predictable chorus of critics.  

“We weren’t surprised at all,” said South Florida coach Steve Bradley, whose school is hosting this year’s NCAAs. “We’ve played this place. We know how tough it is.”

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So what, then, can the 30 men’s teams here learn from their predecessors as they prepare for their own championship, which begins Friday?

Not much, apparently.  

Sure, they could familiarize themselves with the layout, but the men play an entirely different style of golf, big and brawny. They’re longer off the tee. They flight the ball higher. They spin the ball more. And they’re used to putting on lightning-fast greens.  

All of which is why Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler had little interest in watching the women’s championship unfold.

“I don’t want to make judgments on it beforehand,” he said, “or you’ll think it’s the hardest place in America.”

Let’s be clear: The cutoff for match play this week will not come at 62 over par, as it did on the women's side.

Many coaches expect to see a winning qualifier score around even par, with the eight-team cut somewhere in the mid-20s. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see several players fire a round in the mid-to-upper 60s, depending on the crankiness of the setup staff.

For the women, tournament officials set up the course more difficult early, then dialed it back late when the number of high scores – and complaints – increased. 

Many anticipate that the men will be greeted by a softer, more forgiving setup early and for the course to become more difficult as the week progresses.  

Though the men might not be able to learn much from the women’s tee-to-green game, they at least saw where (and where not) to miss.  

They knew, for instance … that the par-4 eighth requires a very precise approach, with sand left and water short.

And they knew … that it’s not always wise to go for the par 5s in two, because of their severe (excessive?) undulations.    

And they knew … all about Mariah Stackhouse’s debacle at the par-5 13th, where she laid up in the fairway and hit what seemed like what a solid wedge shot to the back-right part of the green. Too much sidespin sent her ball all the way into the valley left of the green, and she proceeded to play pinball before eventually conceding the hole. 

It was an all-too-familiar sight for the USF players.

“This course can bite you really quick,” sophomore Rigel Fernandes said. “Most courses only have a few of them, but Nos. 1-18 out here are big-number holes.”

It’s clear that the Bulls have a significant advantage this week, even though they’re an hour from campus and Concession isn’t their home track. As the host school USF is the only team that was allowed to practice at the championship venue during the season, and the Bulls felt so comfortable Thursday that they played only 11 practice holes.

That doesn’t mean they always torch this place. Far from it.

This spring alone they’ve teed it up at Concession eight times. It took the Bulls seven tries before they finally had multiple players break par in a round, a reminder that there’s a big difference between comfort and execution.  

“You’d have to spend 10 hours out here to understand every single slope,” Fernandes said.  

Heck, the rest of the field almost did Thursday, as teams slogged through a seven-hour practice round in 95-degree heat. That’s a less-than-ideal way to warm up for an already brutally long week, but the other 29 teams had no choice – they had to maximize their time at Concession in their one and only tour.

Unless, of course, it’s a team like Stanford, which felt as though it already intimately knew the track. Last week, Lauren Kim, an integral part of the women’s team, texted photos of her entire yardage book in a group chat. During the week leading up to this event, they practiced the specific shots they knew they would face.

“We already knew what the holes looked like,” said Cardinal sophomore Maverick McNealy, the presumptive favorite for player of the year. “Just thinking about it is huge.”

So was seeing the execution of a sound game plan. McNealy and Co. had a view from the rope line Wednesday as the women’s team took home its first national title, 3-2, over Baylor.  

“One of the coolest things I’ve seen in person,” McNealy said, “watching it all go down.”

Now it’s up to his teammates – and the rest of the 29 squads here – to conjure up the same magic.

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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.”