Big Break's Annie & Kelly Provide Insight on Show 4

By Big BreakMarch 19, 2014, 4:00 pm

Former Big Break Ireland competitors Annie Brophy and Kelly Jacques are back. Only this time, it is not to play on Big Break, but to lend their insight and provide some fun facts about the ladies of Big Break Florida. Each week, Annie and Kelly will give you their thoughts on that week’s show, including what the pressure is like each week, since they have been there before. They also will provide you with some behind-the-scenes info on the ladies – Annie and Kelly have played alongside most of them on the Symetra Tour the past few years. While they have no knowledge of any results on the series, they will offer up thoughts on their favorites – and some non-favorites – on Big Break Florida. When not providing their Big Break commentary, Annie and Kelly currently work for, Golf Channel’s official online tee-times provider.

Annie: Another great episode of Big Break Florida! It looks like the girls are starting to feel more comfortable with the cameras around and are focusing on playing golf rather than getting caught up with the pressure of the show.

Kelly: I’m loving this season so far and I think what’s drawing me in are the new and strategic challenges! With that said, I thought the first immunity challenge where the girls bid against each other was genius. It was interesting to see their confidence in themselves and others and at what point that confidence dropped off.

I was surprised to see Fiamma miss the green from 95 yards. They have all hit this shot multiple times so far, dial it in girl!

Annie: Time to lock it up, Fi! It seems like most of the shots we’ve seen this season have been from inside 100 yards. I’d like to see these girls hit something other than a wedge. It would help separate some of the better ball strikers from the others.

Kelly: I was disappointed to see Jackie not bid at all and let Kylee hit the shot. I would’ve understood if the distance was 12 ft or less...but 16ft? I think this was a decision that she immediately regretted! Again...this was the distance that she holed out from earlier! Of course Kylee kept on with her solid play and gained $2,500 and immunity. Easy day. :)

Annie: I thought it was pretty funny Jackie was so quick to challenge Kylee with that shot to 16 feet. Apparently Jackie has been less than impressed with Kylee’s golf game thus far. Obviously she underestimated her, but I’m still not sure I’ve seen enough of Kylee to make a decision one way or the other.

Who were you most impressed with during the immunity challenge?

Kelly: I love Tonya’s mindset! She wants to have her destiny in her own hands and who can blame her! Even though it didn’t work out for her this time, it still shows the confidence she has in her own game. I just love her story as well. She has had a ton of success in college and then ran into a lot of setbacks that kept her from playing golf. To see her back in action and overall playing really well is so great to see. Can we also say how phenominal she looks for having two young children!? Tonya, tell us your secrets!!

Annie: How about Lindsay turning down $10,000?! Oh, the shame! I wonder if she’d make the same decision again after watching this episode. It seemed to me like this was Lindsay once again not wanting to rock the boat with the other girls. I would have loved to see the drama unfold after she took everyone else’s money. And please tell me you heard her say that an afternoon of immunity was “priceless.” Well, no, it actually cost you $8,000. But glad you enjoyed the afternoon stroll through the marsh.

Kelly: To finish out the first immunity I could not believe that Lindsay did not take the 10k!! I think her being “tired” was an excuse for not wanting to make anyone mad and playing the social game. You came on this show to play, so why not take that money and play! Especially when I don't think she would have found herself in the elimination challenge anyways. In my opinion that spoke volumes about her confidence and she was acting more out of a fear of losing than confidence in winning.

Annie: Maybe she just really wanted to ride a Segway..?

Kelly: Maybe. Ok, on to the fast play immunity challenge… I was extremely impressed with Fiamma for stepping up her game and winning. Coming off a poor performance earlier in the day, she proved how relentless she is. I thought her approach of having confidence in her shot and running right after she hit was great!

Annie: Fiamma definitely redeemed herself there! I was impressed with Tonya during this challenge. Up until this episode, I don’t think we’ve seen a whole lot of her. She’s a bit of a dark horse in this competition. Like you mentioned before, she’s definitely proven herself as a player in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to performance now. It’ll be interesting to watch her as the season unfolds.

Kelly: It was a little painful to watch Renee struggle in this challenge. Her short game is so good but she is also a very deliberate player. Players like that are naturally going to struggle when being timed under pressure. Hopefully for her livelihood on the show there will be no more timed challenges!

Annie: Oh, Renee. I hope she can get her nerves in check, but she just hasn’t seemed confident so far on the show. She should be cleaning up with all these short game challenges, and yet we’ve already seen her in two elimination challenges! Come on, Renee! You’re better than that!
How great was her little pep talk from Jackie right before she went into elimination? Love to see the camaraderie and sportsmanship regardless of the cut-throat nature of this competition. Good work, girls.

Kelly: Once Renee was in the elimination I thought it was a no-brainer that she picked Lauren to join her since she was obviously the weakest link mentally. However, I thought it was very telling of Lauren’s character when she still acted sweet towards Renee even after being picked.
I was disappointed that no one stepped up and won it. Instead, Lauren gave it to Renee. I thought it was poor course management/strategy on the 2nd hole when Lauren decided to take the aggressive line on her 2nd shot. She was only one shot down and they were in the same postion.

All she had to do was beat Renee from there on in to tie it up! Ultimately, I think the better player is advancing.

Annie: I agree – I think the aggressive line showed inexperience more than anything. Once she hit that tree, the writing was on the wall at that point. Lauren looked so deflated and defeated. I don’t know Lauren, but I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything was going to be alright.

Kelly: It was hard/sad to watch Lauren’s emotions once she was eliminated. She was very gracious but it was heartbreaking to see how critical she was of herself, especially since I’ve been there. Growing up I used to be so hard on myself, until it finally sunk in that it really is just a game. We should play because it’s something we love and enjoy. I’m hopeful that Lauren can switch her mentality towards the game. I’ve been following her on Twitter and she has been very positive and is trying to turn her attitude around. Best of luck.

Annie: I thought she handled herself really well. She was so gracious, and I’m sure better things are coming her way. Now, is it next Monday yet?

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.