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U.S. Open takes dramatic turn in one 'miserable' day

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 1:46 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – By the time Dustin Johnson finished his round at sunbaked Shinnecock Hills, only seven women remained on the back patio of the clubhouse. As Johnson staggered toward the scoring area, the group cheered lustily and awkwardly, apparently oblivious to the carnage of the past seven hours.

“That was miserable,” Johnson grumbled.

Not even the best player on the planet could survive a day of wild bounces, wicked pins and typical U.S. Open wailing.

In what has become a familiar post-round scene at the year’s second major, players marked all of the usual buzzwords on their U.S. Open Bingo cards.





Pick your favorite course descriptor, because they were all in play Saturday as the combination of a parched course and Johnson’s third-round 77 descended the year’s second major into chaos.

“I don’t feel like I played that badly at all,” he shrugged afterward. “Seven over is usually a terrible score, but with how the greens got this afternoon, it was very, very difficult.”

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With a bogey on the last, Johnson tumbled into a four-way tie for the lead with Daniel Berger, Tony Finau and reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. They sit at 3-over 213, just the fourth time in the past half century that the 54-hole leaders were over par.

Johnson entered the third round with a four-stroke lead. Now the Open is as wide open as ever, with 15 players at or within four shots.

The scoring average Saturday was 75.3, lower than Round 1 here and no doubt aided by the more receptive conditions in the morning. The overall damage was nowhere near as ugly as the infamous Sunday here in 2004, when the scoring average was 78.7 and no one broke par, but this day still left players searching for comparisons.

“I’ve never seen a course change so quickly,” said Justin Rose, who shot 73 despite hitting only six greens.

Indeed, the difference between the morning and afternoon conditions were stark, as the moisture got sucked out of the greens by a warm sun and consistent 20-mph wind.

Berger and Finau barely made the cut, playing their first two rounds in 7 over. Teeing off five hours before the final round, 11 shots off the lead, they each carded 66s to match the low round of the week. Berger struck an ominous tone after signing his card.

“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult later,” he said. “To get out there early and play a good round really was to my benefit.”

And sure enough, for the rest of the day, drives that were slightly off-line kicked into the hay. Approach shots into the firm greens rolled off the shaved banks. Putts bounced and skidded on the glassy, bumpy greens.

Had those 66s been shot in the afternoon?

“That would have been the best round of golf anyone has ever seen,” Koepka said.

The conditions were so treacherous that Shinnecock president Brett Pickett issued a statement through the USGA, saying that he has “no concerns whatsoever” and that the “course has been and remains totally healthy.” An hour later, USGA setup man Mike Davis entered the media center to offer a mea culpa.

“We felt good about the setup when we left this morning,” he said, “but now that I’m sitting here, we would say that parts of these tests of golf were too tough.”

Davis said his message to the grounds staff was loud and clear Saturday night – slow down the course with water – and it’s reasonable to believe that scoring will be markedly better on Sunday.

Too bad the damage to this championship has already been done, as what had been a strong examination of skill turned into a game of chance.

“I’m trying to choose my words carefully here,” said Ian Poulter, who shot 76, “but there’s a fine line between hard and over the edge. From a playability standpoint, when it gets to the edge and goes over, then the pars feel like birdies and the bogeys feel like pars. It’s just hard. It’s brutal.”

The USGA’s miscalculation made world-class players look like amateurs and punished those who entered the weekend with a better score.

The last seven groups – the players who had performed the best over the first two days – were a combined 97 over par.

Tommy Fleetwood shot 78.

Scott Piercy, playing in the final group, carded a birdie-less 79.

Rickie Fowler: 84.

“We wouldn’t be here tonight if we didn’t feel like, late in the day, things got away from us,” Davis said, “and they did.”

That’s probably little solace to Johnson, of course, who watched his two rounds of sublime play disappear over the course of four frustrating hours.

Johnson didn’t have a double bogey or a three-putt over the first two rounds. He accomplished both by the second hole Saturday, eventually taking 38 putts in all.

“I felt like I played pretty well,” he said.

For the first two days, the beleaguered USGA setup crew had been applauded for providing a stern but fair test. By Saturday night, the cheers had been replaced by the usual chorus of complaints.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Rose said. “We’ve all been asking for a real U.S. Open again. I guess we got one this week.”

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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.”