Tiger, Phil have big goals in 2014 despite age

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined to play 797 events and 2,824 rounds on the PGA Tour. They’ve enjoyed remarkable success, winning a combined 121 times, and they’ve been handsomely rewarded for their efforts, amassing more than $182 million in on-course earnings.

But, to repeat: They’ve played nearly 800 events. Or, think about it this way: Mickelson is entering his 22nd full season on Tour, which means he’s been competing on the world’s best circuit longer than Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth has been alive. There’s a lot of mileage on these Ferraris.

High-profile athletes in other sports talk often about the grind of a sporting life, about how each year it gets more and more difficult to put on the uniform and go to work. Not Tiger and Phil.

As they arrived here at Torrey Pines to make their 2013-14 domestic debuts, the two greatest players of their generation talked about being hungrier than ever – an attitude derived from how, in recent years, they’ve adapted and evolved their disparate games. 

Since last January there have been 19 wins by players in their 20s, but Tiger and Phil continue to thrive amid the youth movement. Woods, 38, won five times in 2013, including at a venue (TPC Sawgrass) that has never fit his eye. Mickelson, 43, meanwhile, won three times around the world and enjoyed one of the most satisfying wins of his career at the Open, a major that required a complete overhaul of his game.

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This, though, figures to be an important year for both stars, legacy-wise, as they chase the tournaments they covet most.

Let’s start with Woods. Even though he is major-less since summer 2008 and has battled injuries for years and had his personal life tossed into a blender, he’s still on pace to reach 18 majors. Jack Nicklaus won his 15th, the 1978 Open, at age 38. Woods turned 38 last month. Entering their age-38 season, Tiger has just as many pro major starts (64) under his Nike belt as Jack did.

“Every year is a big year,” Woods said Wednesday, rebuffing the notion that this year, with a favorable foursome of major venues, is a critical year. “Every year counts. … I know that I don’t have 20 years in my prime (remaining). Most guys don’t jump from the foul line at age 58.”

Still, Woods says that he still pushes his body to the limit to prepare and be ready to compete. In recent years, though, his body has pushed back, and playing a full schedule, with no setbacks, has proved elusive. Since 2009 there has been a variety of assorted ailments: neck, knee, Achilles’ tendon (twice), back, elbow. More so than the fierce competition or the major weekend struggles, a clean bill of health likely remains his biggest hurdle.

Woods acknowledged that although he’s still able to generate the same clubhead speed as he once did (between 118 and 120 mph each of the past four years), he cannot summon that velocity on every shot. “I don’t have the rotational speed that I used to,” he said, before adding that he’s “infinitely stronger” and “more explosive” in exercises.

So, yes, even Woods, with his boxer’s waistline and running back’s biceps, cannot escape the signs of aging. As a result, his game has needed to evolve.

These days, Woods finds himself thinking his way around the course more than ever before. Depending on tournament conditions, he can either rear back and bomb it, like he did last year at Firestone, or he can “dink and dunk” and play “small ball,” like he did at The Players.

“You’re still able to be successful,” he said, “but you do it a different way. You evolve as you age.”

Mickelson has undergone a similar transformation. Five years older than Woods, Lefty has avoided serious setbacks with injuries but revealed in 2010 that he suffers from psoriatic arthritis. Though he’s been able to manage the symptoms with medication – while also being more conscientious of his diet and workouts – Mickelson clearly has lost distance off the tee, dropping from 299 yards per pop in 2010 to just 287 last year.

“It’s just more effort to be able to play golf at the highest level,” he said.

Unlike Woods, who now relies more on his mind and course management, Mickelson has instead turned to his equipment to help sustain his high level of play. Over the past few years, he says he has been able to turn his weaknesses into strengths. He has improved nearly 130 spots in strokes gained-putting since 2011 (all the way to No. 6 last year), and the new technology in his driver – lowering the center of gravity, reducing the spin rate – has bolstered his belief off the tee.

“I’m more excited about this year than any year ever,” he said. 

That’s typical Phil gusto, of course, but his game was surprisingly sharp a week ago in Abu Dhabi, where he likely would have won if not for an ill-advised decision from the bushes in the final round. His renewed confidence is also a significant reason why Mickelson has embraced his pursuit of the career grand slam, why, even in January, the upcoming Open at Pinehurst is a topic of discussion.

“I feel like it’s just a matter of time,” Mickelson said of the U.S. Open breakthrough. “I actually believe I’ll win a couple.”

How about that? In golf, it seems, you’re never too old to win something new.

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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.”