NAPLES, Fla – Brittany Lincicome nestled a long birdie putt up to the hole on the 72nd green and tapped in for par. Her caddie, Missy Pederson, gave her player a slap on the backside as if to say, ‘well, better luck next time.’
A tie for third at the final event of the year wasn’t the finish Lincicome envisioned after firing a 64 on Thursday, but it’s the ending she settled for. Despite nearly two decades on Tour, there are demons she still battles and they got the better of her this week at the CME Group Tour Championship. The two-time major champion struggled to maintain her mental focus as she let the idea of shooting 59 creep into her mind on Thursday. She followed with rounds of 71-73 before recovering with a 67 on Sunday.
“I had it going at the start and then lost it terribly through the middle and then pulled it together nicely at the end,” Lincicome said about her week. “I find it hard for myself just to keep going and not think about it.”
What is ‘it’? The leaderboard.
Each player has a unique approach to leaderboard watching. Some players love knowing where they stand and sneak a peek at every opportunity, while others avoid them at all costs.
Lincicome is the latter.
But she let herself take a look when she jumped out to the lead on Friday. Then, she unraveled with a double bogey and two bogeys in her final four holes and lost her lead, which she never recovered.
“I just need to not look at the darn leaderboard,” Lincicome said Sunday. “I tend to glance around at people and then I'm like, ‘Crap. I just looked at it.’ Normally wherever it is, I try not to even look in that vicinity.”
Watching leaderboards is stressful for Lincicome and it’s an issue she has battled throughout her career. She sought the advice of VISION 54, spoke with Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and other players on Tour about how to manage the pressure.
“They're like, ‘you have to know. You have to look at the leaderboard.’” Lincicome said about the advice she received. “It literally stresses me out. Then, I try to do things I shouldn't.”
The stress comes out in her putting. She made 29 putts on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday, desperate to find a solution on the greens, she started switching mid-round between her normal cross-handed grip and a conventional one.
“My putting the last two days has been horrendous,” Lincicome said. “I normally putt cross-handed when I'm under the pressure and feel like my stoke isn't going to be good, and today I did more conventional. The cross-handed left me. I did the short ones, like inside three feet cross-hand, and then all the other ones I did mostly conventional, which is weird.”
But Lincicome won’t fret over it in the off-season. That’s not her style. Instead, she’ll go fishing. Next week, she’s spending the Thanksgiving holiday with her family in a small town called Point Pleasant in West Virginia. It’s where her grandmother lives. She’s not sure they’ll have Internet or whether she’ll be able to watch the Tiger-Phil match on Friday. That’s likely the only bit of golf that will occupy her off-season. She’s doesn’t practice much during her time off. Instead, Lincicome will dust off her clubs in January before heading to the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Perhaps, she’ll have better luck next time.