Tiger's Bridgestone win won't silence critics

By Will GrayAugust 5, 2013, 6:40 pm

AKRON, Ohio – There might be a better way to head into the week of a major championship, but you’d be hard-pressed to find it.

Fresh off his seven-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Tiger Woods will now make the short commute to Rochester, N.Y., for the PGA Championship, equipped with as much momentum as you could possibly extract from four rounds against the best players in the world.

A winner five times this year, Woods will tee off at the season’s final major as the top-ranked player in the world, leading the PGA Tour this year in wins, earnings, FedEx Cup points, scoring average and the all-around ranking.

“But …”

PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

It’s an inevitable refrain when discussing any of Woods’ achievements since the summer of 2008. For as many as will now laud the 79-time Tour winner for his recent play, an opposing faction – equally fervent, equally resilient – will demand to see it done on a major stage.

Welcome to the life of Tiger Woods, where lapping an elite field in a WGC event and taking home the $1.5 million winner’s check in the process does nothing to sate your doubters.

Whether right or wrong, golf’s major championships are placed in a stratosphere unto themselves, as are the performances of players in those events. Woods himself has supported this notion on multiple occasions, once again highlighting their importance in his Sunday post-round news conference.

“Those are the events that we try and peak for and try and win,” he explained after walking off the 18th green at Firestone victoriously for the eighth time in his career. “There’s four of them a year.”

With all facets of his game seemingly aligned and with trophy once again in hand, all signs appear to point to Woods claiming a 15th major title six days from now.

“But …”

The dissenters quickly point out we’ve been down this road before. Woods has won his final start before a major 19 times in his career, and has gone on to win the subsequent major “only” four times (as though a cross-section of data that yields the career major haul of Ernie Els could ever be viewed as a pittance).

More recently, though, the scenario has created fewer results. Woods began three of the past seven majors having won in his prior start, but all he has to show for it is a Dropgate-shrouded tie for fourth this year at the Masters. In 2009, he won prior to each of the season’s four majors and came up empty-handed all four times.

This past week in Akron, though, felt different. It felt dominant. Woods awoke the ghosts of Pebble Beach circa 2000 with his Friday 61, five shots clear of the day’s next-lowest total, then successfully kept the field at arm’s length across the final 36 holes.

His performance this weekend also drew parallels to 2007, a year in which he cleared the field at the South Course by eight shots. He followed that effort up a week later by cruising to a two-shot victory at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

“Performance-wise, yeah. Scoring-wise, yeah,” Woods noted when asked if he saw any similarities between his win six years ago and his most recent triumph.

In fact, while the 37-year-old has won before a major several times, this will mark only the fourth instance where he has won exactly one week prior, with the three other occurrences each yielding strong results. In addition to the aforementioned double in 2007, Woods also notched runner-up finishes at the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships immediately after wins at the Buick Open and WGC-Bridgestone, respectively.

With the top-ranked player in the world clearly rounding into form, this week’s PGA Championship is not lacking for storylines. While Woods’ quest for major No. 15 remains chief among them, three of the next four players in the world rankings behind him have major titles to their credit this season, including British Open champion and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson.

For Woods, though, the repercussions of the next few days cannot be overstated. While he appeared unbeatable for much of the weekend at Firestone, an errant shot or an afternoon spent struggling on the greens could easily result in a missed opportunity in Rochester. That, in turn, would lead to eight months of rampant speculation, with no end in sight until players drive down Magnolia Lane next spring.

The finality of the season’s fourth major can, in that regard, be brutal.

“Do I want it any more? No, it’s the same,” he said Sunday when asked if this week’s upcoming event carries with it an added sense of urgency. “Each and every major, I always want them.”

Over the next three days, Woods will endure a cycle of pre-tournament interrogations that would have remained entirely unchanged regardless of Sunday’s outcome. The fundamental questions lobbed at him will undergo a revision only after he claims a 15th major title, and while you can’t win a tournament on Thursday, you certainly can’t do much to secure the title the Sunday prior.

Recent weekend struggles will be mentioned, as will the speeds of Oak Hill’s greens – surfaces that Woods himself deemed “spotty” on Wednesday – and the 14-time major winner will be forced to face the chasm of time that has passed since his last title, one that now stretches more than five years and grows by the day.

“But …”

While his overall body of work continues to impress, the few remaining doubts still linger. This week’s PGA Championship offers Woods another opportunity to emphatically silence his dissenters while taking a significant step toward the record he most covets.

Though the end result is yet to be determined, one fact is clear: the dress rehearsal couldn’t have gone any better.

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.”