'Big Break' gets bigger with inaugural BBI

By Bailey MosierSeptember 29, 2014, 10:30 pm

LAKE OCONEE, Ga. - You know “Big Break” as the pressure-filled, high-stakes drama, perform or pack-your-bags reality competition that’s aired on Golf Channel for 21 seasons. But this week, “Big Break” gets even bigger.

Forty former contestants – 20 men and 20 women hand-picked based on their dynamic personalities and success since debuting on the show – will go head-to-head in full tournament conditions in the inaugural Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation at the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga. (Click here for the full field.)

The four-round tournament (Tuesday through Friday) will feature a Modified Stableford format for the first two rounds, followed by match play in the third round and a stroke-play conclusion to determine the champion.

“It’s an honor,” winner of the very first “Big Break” Justin Peters said. “This is pretty awesome. I was part of the very first ‘Big Break’ 11 years ago, and to see how much it’s grown over 20 seasons is amazing, and to be involved in the Big Break Invitational here at Reynolds Plantations is pretty amazing.”

Photos: Big Break Invitational reception, pro-am

Peters is among fifteen former “Big Break” champions in the field this week. Others include current PGA Tour and LPGA professionals, NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and once-was players who are just happy to have received the call … and the consideration.

“I had to be one of the last guys to get the call,” Kip Henley, “Big Break” winner turned professional golfer turned PGA Tour caddie, said with a chuckle. “I’m just so happy to be a part of this. The Golf Channel treats us like kings. I did not want to miss this. It’s so important for me to be here and I’m as happy as I can be.”

Make no mistake, this week is a departure from glass-breaking and immunity challenges, and is, instead, about serious golf – and serious cash: the winner scores $100K. But, there’s still a premium on fun, entertainment, and made-for-TV drama.

For evidence of that, look no further than the Henley-Don Donatello opening-round tee time.

Kip Henley and Don Donatello appeared on 'Morning Drive' to discuss the BBI

“I’m paired on Tuesday with Kip Henley who beat me (on the second season of “Big Break”), so there’ll be some banter back and forth, I guarantee it,” Donatello said.

Henley beat Donatello in a playoff in season two, and the two are now caddies on the PGA Tour - Henley loops for Brian Gay and Donatello spent the last two years on the bag for J.J. Henry. The playoff was intense, and it has provided fodder for the two in the years since.

“It wouldn’t matter if the Pope was playing with Donatello,” Henley said, “there’d be some banter back and forth. Double D is the king of the lip wedge and I’m ready for him. You gotta go to bed thinking about how you’re gonna handle Double D. He’s my buddy, I love him, but he’s unique with the lip wedge. He’s a plus-two handicap.”

Henley-Donatello won’t be the only pairing to tune in for. Also playing together are Blair O’Neal and Taylor Collins – both former champions of Big Break; Jerry Rice and Isaac Sanchez – teammates on “Big Break” NFL; and Gerina Piller and Kristy McPherson – both former U.S. Solheim Cup team members (2013 and 2009, respectively).

“I feel like my experience (on the LPGA and Solheim Cup) will be an advantage,” McPherson said. “I’ve been on tour for a long time now and have gotten to play on the big stage. … You can’t discredit anybody and you can’t count anybody out.”

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Mallory Blackwelder and Julien Trudeau met on 'Big Break' and wed this past weekend

Going head-to-head with a rival is one thing, but for Mallory Blackwelder and Julien Trudeau (pictured above), this week's format could hit a little closer to home. The two met on “Big Break” Ireland, started dating after the show's taping concluded and got married this past weekend in Kentucky. They're on their “honeymoon” this week, but if they’re pitted against each other in the final, it could be a short union.

"It'll be a coin toss," Trudeau deadpanned, when asked if his marriage could survive Blackwelder beating him. But more seriously, he said, "If we both make it to the final, we walk away with $150K, collectively. So that would be great."

Whether it's official familial ties or those of the metaphoric type, the "Big Break" bunch is one happy family and excited to be reunited this week in Georgia.

“’Big Break’ is kind of like a big family,” Donatello said. “It’s just a big ‘ol family out here and we all want, for 'Big Break,' for us to play well – the ladies to play well, the men to play well because it looks good for the show.”

When forty men and women tee it up at the Great Waters course on Tuesday, there will be no glass breaks and no wall flops. That much has changed. But one thing is certain, it's guaranteed to be must-see TV.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.