Monday, April 6, 2009

Kraft Nabisco Championship Sunday: Lincicome! Lincicome! Lincicome!

Congratulations to Brittany Lincicome, your winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship!

Go to Armchair Golfer for the deciding hole and reaction from the winner. Go to Golf Babes for the capsule summary of Lincicome's last 2 years. Go to Michael Arkush for the USA! USA! angle. Go to Bill Jempty for his quick reaction. But, if you're a true LPGA aficionado, you'll go to Hound Dog for his live blog and overview/reaction. Not to mention for decidedly better notes than was the norm in previous seasons as well as interviews with Lincicome and the two runner-ups, Cristie Kerr and Kristy McPherson.

OK, now you're ready to tackle the AP story--not a bad effort by Bernie Wilson, but I'll take Randall Mell's article (and his on-course blogging, which once again kicked The Tour Blog's Sean Martin's and Beth Ann Baldry's butts). And, finally, Golf Channel's highlights, interviews, and analysis. Well done, y'all!

As for me, I had left off checking the leaderboard while still waiting to see if Suzann Pettersen could eagle 18 to put some pressure on the leaders down the stretch--onechan and imoto had a playdate at a playground and with them it takes forever to get ready to get out the door. Once I got back home, it didn't take me long to realize that her par there made her bogey-free 66 moot (betcha she wishes she could have borrowed Sun Young Yoo's walkoff eagle--they would have had a 61 best-ball, btw). I also had been in some personal suspense as to whether Ai Miyazato (my favorite player) could hold off Michelle Wie and avoid last place (she couldn't but did). Mostly, though, I had been curious to see if McPherson could become the 1st player all season on the LPGA to turn a 3rd-round lead into an LPGA victory. Instead, Kerr had seemed to be pulling an Ochoa--when the world #1 passed Paula Creamer on the front back in Thailand and never looked back--which made my belated discovery of her bogey-birdie-double stretch midway through the back a big shock. In retrospect, Kerr's stumbles off the tee could have brought almost the entire field back into the tournament, except that really they just kept Lincicome alive. (I kept waiting for Lindsey Wright to get hot after that eagle in the par-5 11th--just like I waited for Meaghan Francella to return to the form that saw her birdie 4 of her 1st 6 holes and get to -6. But Wright parred out and so did Francella, after a bogey on the 7th. No Sunday free-for-all, after all.)

And what a way to take advantage of the moment for Lincicome! Here's someone who had finished out of the money on a Florida mini-tour event while the LPGA was on its early-season Asian Swing in early March. What a difference a month makes! Just last week, I was complimenting her for making 2 consecutive cuts and shooting 3 rounds of par or better in a row. She may be forgiven for having considered that an April Fool's Day joke, as it seems I haven't said anything complimentary about her play in a couple of years. To tell you the truth, I had thought Bill Jempty was more than a little foolish to name her his comeback player of the year in his preseason predictions! Her 1 top 10 last season had come out of nowhere, and unlike 2007 when she followed up her runner-up at the KNC and win at the Ginn with 9 top 20s, her 2008 only had one other decent result, a top 15 against a relatively weak field in Mexico, while the rest was simply horrible--11 missed cuts, a DQ at the Ginn Tribute, and, of her 10 finishes in the money, only 1 other was even in the top 30.

The challenge for Brittany now will be to avoid going MIA once again, as she did after that 2nd career LPGA win. She had always seemed uncomfortable with the Young Americans hype back in late 2006 and early 2007. I distinctly recall an interview not long after that win where she basically admitted she wasn't ready to devote herself to her game enough to compete against the best in the world, so I wasn't at all surprised that she struggled over the rest of the season, nor was I surprised at her undistinguished Solheim Cup performance. At some point in 2008 I figured she had crossed the same kind of event horizon as Julieta Granada and might never escape her own personal black hole. Turns out it was some weird kind of wormhole! A combination of a major off-season swing change and a commitment to better conditioning and not getting down on herself after a bad shot was all she needed. Now she sounds excited about the Solheim Cup, which is a good thing, because she's 1 of 15 players scrapping it out for those top 10 spots. Nobody's going to knock Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, or Angela Stanford off the U.S. team, but with just less than 120 points separating #4 and #15, anything can happen, particularly when you consider that Lincicome's win in this week's major earned her exactly 120 points and put her at the top of the heap in a crowded Player of the Year race!

Viva the Corona in 2 weeks! Should have a great field....

[Update 1 (3:45 am): Nice job by Karen Crouse for the NYT and Brent Kelley for!]

[Update 2 (4:24 am): Nice to see the SI guys remember there was an LPGA major this week. Although I guess it's too much to expect Bamberger to remember the LPGA's going to Torrey Pines this year.]

[Update 3 (4:30 am): Hope somebody from CBS takes note of Bradley Klein's critique. And that at some point the Constructivist household can afford to upgrade the cable modem to include, well, tv.]

[Update 4 (11:45 am): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue.]

[Update 5 (10:27 pm): Nice of Golf Babes to show Tiffany Joh some love, but The Squire missed out on 2 key things everyone needs to know about T-Joh: 1) she was a leader on the Curtis Cup U.S. team; 2) she was a Waggle Room guest blogger back when Mulligan Stu was running the joint.]

[Update 6 (10:33 pm): Pretty awesome little essay over at Golf Channel by Annika Sorenstam on watching the end of the final round. A lot more substantive than what she usually posts on her own blog.]

[Update 7 (4/7/09, 12:45 pm): Nice piece by Daniel Wexler on Lincicome's win and the struggles of the LPGA's elite players at Mission Hills.]

[Update 8 (12:54 pm): Enjoyed Steve Elling's LPGA-centric ups and downs piece, even if I completely disagree with one of his premises. Guess which one!]

[Update 9 (12:58 pm): Gotta love Gerald Gallagher's case for the KNC being the most exciting major in golf. Wonder if all the writers dwelling on the recent lack of Masters Sunday excitement will draw the connection?]

[Update 10 (4/9/09, 12:10 am): Great overview by Ron Sirak! When he's on, he's on. I'd love to see him give Seon Hwa Lee the Lincicome treatment next time she wins!]

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