Lincicome still overcome by 2009 emotion

Brittany Lincicome at No. 11 during the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Brittany Lincicome just can’t help herself when she walks down the 18th hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her history here causes a little bit of emotion.

Lincicome, 25, was nearly two years removed from her last win as she walked down that fairway at Mission Hills Country Club during the final round of the 2009 Kraft. Trailing Kristy McPherson by a shot, Lincicome knocked it to 4 feet and tapped in for eagle to win the third tournament of her career. She joined an elite club of players that day who have taken a dip in Poppie’s Pond, and etched a career-defining memory.

Thinking about that day still brings tears to her eyes when Lincicome passes through a set of grandstands and crosses the bridge to the final green amid the sound of cheering fans. As she enters that walk, there is her name, plaqued into the guard wall with the other past champions. The tall blonde – who ends many a round by giving signed memorabilia to fans, signing autographs for as long as necessary or even posing with kids and babies for photographs – only nods bashfully and turns sharply onto the bridge, a very modest smile on her face.

“I try to keep it together, but a couple of tears kind of fell just because it’s such a great memory,” she said. “It’s something that I don’t know 10 years from now – if I’m playing this event – if I’ll still get that feeling or not. I’m not sure.”

The long-hitting Lincicome is comfortable on the monstrous Dinah Shore course, and the right-to-left nature of many holes set up to her liking.

“Being a longer hitter, having shorter irons into the greens, especially being as firm as they are, is definitely an advantage,” Lincicome said. “... I couldn’t get the 8-iron to stop, and God only knows the girls behind me hitting 5-irons into that green.”

Just like in 2009 when Lincicome gained the status of a major champion, she opened with 6-under 66 on a hot and still Thursday afternoon. She fluctuated between even par and 1 under Friday, remaining near the top of the leaderboard. A long 4-iron into the 18th green, followed by a near chip-in that ended with a two-putt for par, left her at even-par 72. She is three shots behind leader Stacy Lewis.

The difference between Rounds 1 and 2, Lincicome said, was a result of thinking too much, which resulted in guiding the ball.

“When I actually went aggressive at it and swung hard like I normally do, it went dead straight down the middle,” she said.

Feeling free and loose is a key to Lincicome’s success, according to Kristine Reese, a performance coach with Vision54. Together with colleague Tiffany Yaeger, Reese has been working to quiet the chatter in Lincicome’s head on the course. Lincicome has been a student of Vision54 since shortly after the 2009 Kraft.

Reese, Yaeger and co-founder Pia Nilsson were quiet yet integral members of Lincicome’s gallery Friday. Sunglassed and unassuming, the three moved from hole to hole with their student, observing her body language and demeanor. Lincicome certainly knew her coaches were in the crowd.

“I felt like I could have shot 100 today if it wasn’t for them keeping me just positive and reflecting on things that we’ve been working on for the past two years now,” she said.

Friday was about maintaining the sensation of loose arms, but sometimes Lincicome will put a song in her head for the round.

“There’s not voices in the play box over the golf ball,” Reese said. “You’re giving yourself something to do.”

Reese spent the day watching for minute things such as how long Lincicome stands over the ball, but sometimes her players will ask for specific feedback. Reese won’t give it until she hears a player’s impressions of the round.

Spectator tip for the weekend: Lincicome is a shoulders-back, head-up, eyes-above-the-horizon kind of player when she’s most on her game. And as for that walk up the 18th, you can’t fault a gal a sentimental tear here and there.

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