2015’s first women’s major goes to Brittany Lincicome

Posted: April 6, 2015 4:56 pm

Unlike most pro golfers, Brittany Lincicome doesn’t just acknowledge nervousness. She practically yells it out loud with her body language, facial expression, and even verbally, in interviews.

At the end of a long day in which it appeared that the ANA Inspiration Championship would be decided at virtual match play between Stacy Lewis and Sei Young Kim, Lincicome arrived at the par-5 18th hole with a chance.

“It felt fairly easy because I thought I was so far out of the tournament that I never had a chance,” Lincicome said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Lincicome eagled 18 to sneak into a playoff with Lewis. When  Lewis bogied the third hole of sudden death, Lincicome needed only an easy-on-the-nerves two-putt par to claim her second major championship.

Both major titles came in this event. In 2009, she eagled 18 to win it in regulation.

In the playoff, Lincicome admitted to, “shaking like a leaf,’’ and that was even before the traditional champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond in the early evening chill after a long, tense day.

It began with Kim, a rookie from South Korea, three shots ahead of Lewis. For most of the round the two dueled head-to-head. Lewis, birdied 10, 11 and 12, and grabbed the lead on the 14th hole with a putt for par while Kim bogeyed.

It was the roar of the crowd on the 18th green that greeted Lewis and Kim as they stepped to the last tee that gave the first indication it might not be all about them after all.

Lincicome, 29, said when the tournament started she was thinking about just making the cut, not winning her second major. Not after just one top-10 finish in six starts this year (a fourth-place in the Bahamas), the next-best a tie for 18th.

She was one under par for the day when she came to 18, drilled a perfect drive and the a pure 5-iron from 190 yards to 10 feet from the hole. Just rolling along, she made the eagle putt to suddenly tie Lewis at 9 under par.

Lewis had three birdie putts in the 12-15-foot range on 18 Sunday, one in regulation and two in the playoff, and missed them all.

“I played solid all day, so I have to remind myself of that and not get too frustrated,” she said. “It just wasn’t quite meant to be today.”

Wearing the champions’ terry-cloth robe, Lincicome talked about the deep cleansing breaths she used to try to slow her heart rate down during the playoff holes.

“Even after I won … my hands were still shaking tremendously,” she said. “The putt was done and the tournament was over, and I was still nervous. …

“I would like to tell you it’s getting better, but Juli Inkster told me a long, long time ago if you’re not nervous, you’re not human. But I try to take it as a good thing that you’re nervous. I mean, if you’re not nervous, I don’t feel like you really care.”