In professional golf, it’s hard to find anything more exciting than a player hitting a clutch shot to clinch a win on the 72nd hole — especially at a major.
Brittany Lincicome hit one of the best shots of the season on the 18th hole during Sunday's final round (PHOTO: Eddie Meeks).
Brittany Lincicome reminded us of this at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she grooved a hybrid from 210 yards on the par-5 18th hole in the final round to four feet for an eagle and a one-shot, come-from-behind win at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
Ranked 86th in the world heading into the LPGA Tour’s first major of 2009, Lincicome vaulted all the way up to No. 22 and also positioned herself for a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Her win was the first by an American at an LPGA grand slam event since Cristie Kerr won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2007.
“American golf is on the upswing again,” said Kerr, who played in the final group with Lincicome and finished tied for second with another American, Kristy McPherson. “We are all pulling for each other, and we are obviously playing well.”
Lincicome’s thrilling win is a boost for a circuit based in the United States, but it certainly doesn’t completely swing the pendulum away from the dominant contingent of international talent. Only three of the top 21 players in the Rolex world rankings are American — Kerr is one of them, and while a second-place finish at a major lifted her from seventh to sixth, the bottom line is she would probably would have won if not for a devastating double bogey down the stretch.
What Kerr, Lincicome and the rest of their American cohorts need is staying power. This decade, the only U.S. ladies who have won multiple majors are Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon — both are now in the twilight of their careers.
The other American major winners this decade — Hilary Lunke and Sherri Steinhauer – simply haven’t capitalized on their triumphs.
Kerr has done her part, finishing fifth on the money list in 2008 and showing a great deal of grittiness on the course.
Morgan Pressel made history when she became the youngest LPGA major winner ever at the Kraft Nabisco in 2007. She’s stayed visible thanks to an array of high-profile marketing deals, but she’s only recorded one victory since then and hasn’t come close to capturing any big events.
Paula Creamer probably has the widest appeal among Americans. The 22-year-old already has eight wins; however, she’s yet to prove she can rise to the occasion and win a big event.
It could be argued that the emphasis on winning major championships isn’t as profound on the LPGA Tour as it is on the LPGA Tour. Patty Berg’s record total of 15 LPGA major wins isn’t as revered as the 18 PGA majors held by Jack Nicklaus, and the spectrum of LPGA majors has changed over the years while the PGA’s have remained consistent.
But grand slam events hold the most worldwide visibility, and they have the best fields. Besides competing in the Solheim, winning majors is what the best Americans aspire to.
Lincicome has the length to knock it around any venue, and she proved she has the nerves needed to perform under the gun. It’d be great for the United States if she could do it again — and soon.