‘It will be like playing in a major – but obviously with the guys’
You probably aren’t that familiar with the Barbasol Championship given its place on the PGA Tour calendar – it’s played the week of the Open Championship.
This year might be a little different as Brittany Lincicome will become the fifth woman to play on the PGA Tour; Michelle Wie tried it plenty of times, the last time in 2008, Annika Sorenstam played in the 2003 Colonial to much fanfare, Babe Zaharias and Suzy Whaley are the others. Dame Laura Davies made history recently by playing on the Staysure (senior) Tour in Europe.
Now Lincicome, one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour with an average driving distance of around 270 yards, will join the men. But, while it doesn’t happen very often, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise as the two-time major winner has a sponsorship deal with Pure Silk whose parent company also owns Barbasol.
Lincicome’s husband is a long-drive competitor and she has played in some mini-tour events with the men but this is pretty much breaking new ground for the player nicknamed ‘Bam Bam’ due to her length off the tee.
“I’m praying that Martin Piller [husband of Lincicome’s Solheim Cup team-mate Gerina] will be playing so that he will play a practice round with me! I think the guys will be welcoming but it would be nice to play a practice round with someone or know who I am playing with in the first two rounds,” the American told NCG.
Lincicome has always been refreshingly honest about how nervous she can get, you would imagine pretty much everyone is similar, she is just more open about it. After major victories – she has two of them – the Floridian has admitted to shaky hands and she doesn’t expect her PGA Tour debut to be any different.
“This is absolutely not like a normal event! My first reaction was to be so nervous and I hadn’t even committed to it, it will be like playing in a major – but obviously with the guys.
“A lot of people are expecting me to do well and I’m expecting myself to do well. My caddie is like, ‘Why are you nervous? It is just like a normal event and we’re going to go and have fun.’ But I am more nervous than normal.
“Thank god I have a caddie! Missy [Pederson] and I have been together for five years, she played professional basketball for a year and she is as cool as a cucumber. When she played she wanted the ball, she wanted to make the game-winning shot so when my hands are shaking she looks at me and says, ‘You are being ridiculous.’ She tells me to slow my breathing down and to have some water and she thrives on big situations. When I told her about this she was all for it.
“To have someone super-confident like her will be great and she makes me feel so much more comfortable on the course.”
Given her very likeable nature Lincicome will have the backing of her peers and, the more people get to know and hear Lincicome over the coming weeks, plenty should be pulling for her.
For all the talk of trying to encourage more women to play with more men and more team events – when these types of situation do come up the general reaction is similar to something like the fastest man in the world taking on a cheetah over 100 metres.
All being well this will be more of the norm in the years ahead. There’s a gimmick element to it but the Barbasol Championship, opposite The Open, will never have been talked about like this before and, all being well, a few people’s impression of the women’s game might get a positive nudge.
“We were at the US Open when this was announced and everyone in the locker room or on the putting green was super excited for me, that was really cool to see everyone’s reaction and it has been wonderful for my peers to be rooting for me. People on Twitter have been great and I have only had to block one person. There definitely feels like there is some extra pressure with everybody watching.
“Danielle Kang said to me in the locker room at the US Open, ‘Now you know how it feels to be me.’ This time I’ll have the longer irons in and the guys will have the wedges in.”
While Lincicome comfortably sits inside the top 10 for driving distance on the LPGA Tour being able to hit it 270 yards off the tee wouldn’t be ahead of one player on the PGA Tour. Incredibly 50 men average over 300 yards on the men’s tour and it will be the par 5s which might feel a little unfamiliar.
“My normal par is 68 as I can generally get to our par 5s. I have looked at the scorecard and the par 3s are also around 180-200 yards instead of the 150 that I am used to so I think they will be the biggest differences.
“The par 4s should be fine. When I play my local courses they would be 7,000 yards and Concession, where I sometimes play, might be 7,500 off the tips so, as long as it isn’t super wet, the distance shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”
Make no mistake this is nothing like Sorenstam at Colonial when the whole world seemed to stop and most had an opinion on the validity of her place in the field but it’s still a big deal. Lincicome won’t be going beforehand to put in any additional preparations, the idea will be to treat it like a normal week as far as possible.
“At a US Open or a major I never go too early, I try to treat them like normal events. I remember thinking it was so cool of Annika to try and represent the LPGA Tour.
“It has always been in the way far back of my mind to try this. Annika doing it made sense as she was at the top of the game, for me to try it I didn’t think it would be possible.
“It took me a couple of days to say yes, some guys will miss the cut so if I do that’s not such a big deal and I might learn something from them. I’m not trying to compare myself with the guys, I just want to go out there and have a good time. I just want to have some fun with it.”