A new caddie, two bogey-free rounds and the chip of a lifetime on the final hole were all Brittany Lincicome needed to end a two-year victory drought on the LPGA Tour.
Lincicome made a 4-foot birdie putt after hitting a marvelous chip out of high, green-side fescue Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic for her fourth LPGA Tour title and first since the 2009 Kraft Nasbisco.
”It feels great,” Lincicome said. ”It’s like you said, since ’09. You don’t know if you’re ever going to win again or if you’ll ever have your time. So it feels fantastic.”
Lincicome’s birdie capped a 5-under 66 that gave her a dramatic one-shot victory over third-ranked Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Cristie Kerr. Shin also shot a 66, and Kerr had a 69.
The 25-year-old Lincicome finished the 54-hole tournament on the Bay Course at Seaview with an 11-under 202 total, and some of the success had to go to new caddie, former LPGA Tour player A.J. Eathorne. The two started working together at the Sybase Match Play Championship two weeks ago.
”The more I talk and chattier that I am, the better that I play,” Lincicome said, noting Eathorne did a great job of picking up her spirits and getting her to talk everything from fishing to friends and pets.
Being in good spirits is what Lincicome needed coming to the last hole.
After hitting a perfect drive, Lincicome choked down on a 3-wood but her shot had a little too much on it and landed in the fescue about hole-high.
The lie wasn’t horrible and the fescue wasn’t the tallest around, but there was little chance of getting the ball close to the hole, or at least there didn’t seem to be much of a chance.
However, Lincicome deftly hit a lob wedge close and made the putt, after nearly backing off it because ”her hands her shaking so much.”
”I could have hit a bucket of ball and not gotten it that close,” Lincicome said about the chip.
Because Shin had already missed her 10-foot birdie attempt, all that stood between Lincicome and a win was Kerr, the second-round leader who got off to a quick start and then couldn’t get anything to fall the rest of the day.
Kerr hit her second shot about 80 feet from the hole and needed to sink it for an eagle to force a playoff.
”Cristie Kerr is the best putter on tour, I think, by far,” Lincicome said. ”So I thought she’d knock it up there super close to make me be like, `Oh, gosh.’ But you’ve always got to anticipate that they’re going to make it.”
Kerr, who led Catriona Matthew by a stroke heading into the final round, made a great putt.
”It was actually in the heart,” Kerr said. ”It was like five feet short, but it’s tough to have to make an 80 foot eagle putt to make it into the playoff. But I just wish I would have gotten it to the hole.”
If there was a difference in the tournament it was the par 5s.
Lincicome played nine par 5s in the tournament and had seven birdies, an eagle and a par, with the last birdie coming on the par-5, 501-yard 18th.
”Everything kind of fell my way,” Lincicome said. ”It was clearly my week.”
Lincicome came a long way to win. She was tied for 30th after an opening 1-over 72, but overcame the slow start playing the final 36 holes in 12 under. She didn’t have a bogey in her final 38 holes.
Ironically, Lincicome also didn’t have a birdie on the final nine until the last hole.
Lincicome played the front side in 4 under and she briefly grabbed a one-shot lead after making a birdie at the par-5 ninth.
Shin tied for the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 10 and took a one-shot lead with a birdie from 8-feet at No. 12. However, the South Korean bogeyed the 14th after a bad chip and fell a shot behind missing a 3-foot par saver on the next hole. A 3-foot birdie tied her for the lead heading to the final hole but she could not get her birdie attempt to fall on the final hole.
”I didn’t hit (it) very well because I’m very nervous, because I know the putt is very important to win,” Shin said.
Kerr birdied the third, fifth and sixth holes to go 11 under and grab a two-shot lead. However, she bogeyed the seventh hole after overshooting the green and the eighth hole after driving left and being forced to take an unplayable lie.
Kerr missed a 5-foot birdie putt at No. 9 to tie for the lead and didn’t make another birdie until the final hole.
”Nothing went my way today,” said Kerr, who insisted she played well.
Players endured long delays in the final round because of rulings on the course, and the twosomes played 4 1/2-hour rounds.
Matthew also shot a 69 and was two shots behind the winner and one ahead of Anna Nordqvist and I.K. Kim., who both closed with 66s. Top-ranked Yani Tseng was seventh after a 65, the same final round that put Karrie Webb in a group at 207.