finished in second place after a two-under 70.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Friday, August 21, 2009

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) — The missed cuts were piling up and so were the poor finishes. After so much early success, Brittany Lincicome had no idea how to get out of her slump last year.

Or if she even could.

``It was very scary, I couldn't do anything right last year,'' Lincicome said Thursday. ``Nothing was going my way, I couldn't get anything going. My father and I had the conversation, why don't we just take the rest of the year off, work on the game a little bit and see what happens, because I was already exempt from winning a tournament in the previous year.''

She kept at it, but never found her groove. She had just one top-10 finish in 21 events last season, missing 11 cuts. Of her last seven events, she missed the cut five times.

Making her struggles all the more difficult was that she'd never experienced anything like it.

A star on the junior circuit, Lincicome was the first-round leader at the very first U.S. Women's Open she played, in 2004. She wound up tied for 55th, but the big hitter had served notice that Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie weren't the only teenagers with game.

Sure enough, two years later, Lincicome won the Women's World Match Play Championship for her first victory. She was in the top 10 four other times, including finishing seventh at the U.S. Women's Open. In 2007, she won the Ginn Open.

Lincicome switched coaches at the beginning of this season, and working with Craig Shankland has had a huge impact. In her fourth start, Lincicome won her first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She also was fifth at the U.S. Open.

``I just kind of needed a change, needed to hear something different,'' Lincicome said. ``We're kind of working on the same things, but just maybe it hear it a different way, something has clicked, and it's really worked out very well.''

That she wanted a spot on this Solheim Cup team didn't hurt, either.

Lincicome freely admits she's not much for practice, and will find herself talking to fellow players if a practice session is dragging on too long. But her poor season last year meant she had work to do if she wanted one of the 10 automatic spots on the U.S. team.

``It was my No. 1 goal going into the season to make this team, and I had to work pretty hard and put in some good practice - which, if you know me, you know I don't like to do,'' she said. ``It was a lot of work, but the reward was being here and being with these girls and representing your country. There's nothing better than that.''

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BOOST FROM MOM: Angela Stanford has some extra motivation this week.

Stanford's mother, Nan, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, decided to make the trip to the Solheim Cup and will join Stanford's brother and grandmother. Nan Stanford had canceled her flight to the Chicago area, but made the 15-hour drive from Texas with another family member and friend.

Stanford's father didn't make the trip after having shoulder surgery on July 31.

``I'm pretty pumped my mom is going to be here,'' Stanford said.

Stanford announced in late June that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Nan Stanford just finished her second round of chemotherapy, and will have four more.

``They're going to do one every three weeks, and then probably surgery before the end of the year,'' Stanford said. ``She's doing good, but I think the second round hit her a little harder. I found out where my impatience comes from. She'll have a good day and then she'll have a bad day and just get all upset because she thinks if she has one good day, she should have a lot of good days.

``Emotionally, I think she's getting better every day, so I'm pretty proud of her.''

Stanford is playing in her third Solheim Cup, but first in the United States.

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NO HELP: European captain Alison Nicholas seems to have been paying attention to Paul Azinger's strategy.

The U.S. captain used a ``pod'' system for last year's Ryder Cup, dividing his players into three personality groups and keeping them together for practice rounds and matches. The method worked, with the Americans truly looking like a team in their only Ryder Cup victory this decade.

Nicholas did a little shuffling with practice groups, particularly earlier in the week. But the same four players played together Wednesday and Thursday and, sure enough, Nicholas drew her fourball pairings from that.

``(Azinger) came to see me and said, 'If you want any help, let me know.' I said, 'Fine, that's good with me,''' Nicholas said, drawing laughs. ``Obviously, I did get some information about how Paul structured his pairings. But I just did my own thing, really.''

Sophie Gustafson and Suzann Pettersen, paired for at least one match at the last three Solheim Cups, will play the first fourball match against Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr. Helen Alfredsson, who qualified as a player after serving as captain in 2007, has played all week with rookie Tania Elosegui, and will do so again Friday against Angela Stanford and Juli Inkster.

Laura Davies and Becky Brewerton are paired again, as they were in 2007. They'll play Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome. Catriona Matthew has a new partner in Maria Hjorth (against Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie).

``They have a desire to play with one another, and all my players there get a lot of birdies,'' Nicholas said. ``That's what fourball is all about.''

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