Late FedEx fluctuations decide BMW field

By Will GraySeptember 1, 2014, 11:50 pm

NORTON, Mass. – After salvaging a par on the final hole, Carl Pettersson strode into the scoring area at TPC Boston and headed right for the numbers guru.

“Is it enough?” he asked Tom Alter, the PGA Tour’s VP of Communications, who moonlights as the circuit’s chief playoff projection specialist.

It was, Alter told him. The Swede entered the week No. 93 in the standings, with only 70 players advancing to next week’s – er, this week’s – BMW Championship, but a final-round 66 got the job done.

Upon hearing the news, Pettersson let out a clap, grabbed a Diet Coke and sat down in a seat to review his scorecard, breathing a visible sigh of relief.

Welcome to the FedEx Cup playoffs, and remember to bring your own abacus.

Throughout the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, players jumped inside the bubble, then outside, then back in again. The fluctuations were constant, and the final ticket to Cherry Hills was punched based on the finish of … Rory McIlroy.

Of course it was.

Only two players eagled the par-5 18th during the final round, and as fate would have it, those two men ended up straddling the final top-70 bubble. Jerry Kelly, who appeared on the outside looking in with an hour to go in the final round, has a tee time Thursday at Cherry Hills.

Robert Streb, whose 966 point total put him less than two points behind Kelly, is headed home.

Such are the machinations of the playoffs, a points system designed with volatility in mind and whose swings are often impossible to predict.

2014 FedEx Cup standings

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Kelly is no stranger to bubble situations. During the peak of his career, he finished 11th on the Ryder Cup points list when the top 10 names advanced. Twice. He missed advancing at Q-School by a single shot on three other occasions.

“Every single year,” he said. “I’m always right there. Right around the edges.”

After a bogey on the 17th hole, Kelly’s fate appeared bleak, but he displayed the poise and savvy of a veteran during the 50-yard walk to the final tee.

“Walking off 17, I said, ‘Don’t let this be a hole that you think about until next season,’” he said. “’Do something here to know that you’ve done everything you could to get in.’”

That’s exactly what he did, nestling a 3-wood to within 4 feet of the hole. Eagle. It vaulted him to No. 68 in the standings, and onto the cusp of safety.

Fast forward three hours, and Streb was walking to the home hole in need of something big. His approach rolled to within 7 feet, and it appeared an underdog upset would come to fruition for Streb, a 27-year-old who finished last year 126th on the points list.

“I knew where I stood,” explained Streb, who started this week No. 97 in the standings. “It was pretty exciting walking up there because I knew I needed to make it.”

The excitement for Streb was short-lived, though, as myriad late results created a domino effect that bumped him to No. 71.

First Morgan Hoffmann, who began the final round 3 over for his first six holes, birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to jump to No. 68 and achieve “Denver-bound” status.

“My caddie and I kind of kicked ourselves coming in, and we got it done,” he said. “It’s just a bonus for me. I’m just happy to make it past The Barclays.”

The remaining dominoes impacting Streb began with Chesson Hadley, who birdied the final hole to join him in a tie for ninth for the tournament. After starting the week at No. 84, the rookie is now headed to the third playoff event.

A 72nd-hole birdie from Jason Day moved him into a tie for seventh, further eroding Streb’s projected point total. That tally took another hit when McIlroy birdied 16, then added another birdie on 18.

While Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel decided the tournament, it was McIlroy’s finish that decided the bubble. Kelly, who left the course before McIlroy teed off, is moving on at No. 70. Streb comes up one spot short once again.

Six players moved into the top 70 this week at TPC Boston, and five players – Kelly, Hoffmann, Pettersson, K.J. Choi and Ben Crane – would have seen their seasons end had they taken even one more shot this week.

The darker side of the bubble had tales of regret, as Streb was one of three players who missed the top 70 by a single shot.

David Hearn played early in the morning, and came to the 18th at 7 under for his round. He thought he needed one more, though, and played aggressively from 92 yards to a tucked pin. He missed with his wedge, then failed to get up-and-down, and left with a closing bogey. A par, as it turned out, would have been enough. He finished No. 74.

Jason Kokrak knew he needed birdie on the final hole, but he caught his 5-iron from 222 yards thin. The ball bounced off rocks in front of the green and into a hazard. While he got up-and-down from the drop zone for par, it became clear minutes after his round that he was likely on the outside.

“One bad mis-hit on the last hole,” he said. “I knew I needed to make birdie to really solidify my spot in the BMW.”

After swilling his soda in the scoring area, Pettersson admitted that he had two flights booked for Monday evening from Boston: one home to Raleigh, N.C., and one to Denver. The departure times were separated by 30 minutes, and he knew the FedEx Cup calculators would ultimately decide which flight he would board.

“It’s been a fun ride,” he said.

For the likes of Kokrak and Streb, the season ends here. But for Pettersson and 69 others, the ride now heads west to Cherry Hills, with a $10 million prize still looming on the horizon.

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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.”