The morning started as most others, breakfast and chit chat, but we all realize how real this Big Break, as once again we were one less player at the table.
We had an interesting breakfast letter, one that was going to ruffle feathers to say the least, at least mine. The early morning first elimination was going to be a 'call out' session. We all had cards under our seats. The lower card was going to pick whom he wanted a 'show down' with, until all players were picked.
Something told me that when Mark didn't pick me – as we all assumed he would pick Anthony – the number two pick held by Chan, was going to be used to pick me. And low and behold it was me and I can say that I was not the least bit happy. Being called out is not a pleasant thing, worse when it comes from Chan. There are reasons behind my thoughts, but I was pissed and ready to send him a lullaby.
Simple rules. First player hits a shot in the fairway, next player hits and must hit his shot further and also in the fairway. Great elimination that made every player think his way through shots. It seemed that my fellow competitors started out somewhat cautiously, starting short and progressing to longer and longer shots. As I sat there, Ray and I agreed that it was time to up the elimination and just go for the jugular when it was our turns. As my match started and I was walking back to the tee, I was ready to send Chan a very direct message. That message being, “You picked me and I'm now going to show you that you made a mistake. A mistake that could send you home to eat all the grass that you want.”
As I stepped to the tee, I was going to my 'money' club, my 18 degree Adams utility wood. I know this surprised a few of the guys, but my mind was locked and loaded to hit this shot. I was so calm and ready and when that ball left the club, although not struck as solid as I would have liked, I knew the seed was planted. I hit a mediocre shot of 237 yards. I wasn't worried about what Chan was going to hit but knew he better hit a 3 wood to have any chance. When he picked a hybrid, I pretty much knew he had to hit his best or no chance. He hit it good, but it wasn't good enough and I did my job. I was safe and Chan was not. Lullaby sent.
Fortunately for me, I did not get to see the 2nd elimination because of a great excursion that Golf Channel provided for the winners of the first elimination. After watching the 2nd elimination on TV, I wish I would have seen it, because it was a very unique challenge and it would have been fun to watch the guys perform. I must say, Mike hit two GREAT shots and he deserved to advance.
Four players were up for elimination, Chan (the lowest), James, Stu and Anthony. Chan being the loser from the second elimination had the choice of choosing two players to join him in the elimination. I knew he wasn't going to pick James, so he chose Anthony and Stu. The challenge was four locations, total score and if there was a lone leader after 3 locations, he would automatically advance to the next show. Through three locations, Chan was the leader and therefore advanced to a episode four. But there was still much to be decided. Anthony and Stu had to play the remaining hole with Anthony holding a one stroke advantage. All Anthony had to do was halve the hole and he advanced. There was only one problem with that thought, Stu wasn't ready to go home yet. Anthony made par and Stu had about a 10 footer to send the match to extra holes and boom, that is exactly what he did. On the first extra hole, they both hit fair tee shots. Stu hit first and hit a good shot, just below the pin, about 10 feet again. Anthony, however hit a poor lob wedge to about 60 feet and the two putt was no gimme. Just when you think the match is swinging in a different direction, Anthony drains the bomb of his life. Stu had his destiny in his hands, but unfortunately, his putt slid by the high side and Stu's run on Big Break came to an end.
In closing, I must say that it was a pleasure and joy to get to meet and learn more about Stu. This young man has had a tough battle in his life, a battle that he will have for the remainder of his life and having dealt with a family member who had similar issues, I know golf is easy when it comes to this battle. I have faith in Stu and I'm happy to always be a lending ear to him. As for Anthony, he played great and needs to have more inner confidence. He deserves to believe in himself more than he does.
Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.
On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.
“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.
“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”
Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.
New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.
In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.
Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.
“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”
Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.
His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.
“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”
Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.
That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”
That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.
“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”
Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.
“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.
Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME
Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.
Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)
What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.
Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.
Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.
Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.
Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.
Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.