Week six of Big Break Greenbrier. Oh, where to begin? Let’s start at breakfast as that seems to be our normal starting ground.
Breakfast is starting to take a pattern, we all want to talk, but we just don't want to say too much before we hear the dreaded, 'the bus is here'. Talk always comes to what players thinking the challenge of the day may be, but on Big Break, guess all you want, ‘cause you'll never know.
As we finally made it out to the course, hole number three of the Old White TPC, a fairly mundane par three. That is, until you make your way to the approximately 150 foot-long green. That's right, I said 150 feet. The rules were simple enough. There were seven players and we were all going to take a shot from four different locations and you would be awarded points, ranging from seven points for the best or closest shot, to one point for the worst or furthest shot from the hole. If you made the unfortunate mistake of missing the green, you would get the dreaded goose egg.
Our first location of the day was going to be a 120 foot putt. This putt starts out kind of flat, drops severely then raises nearly five feet for the remainder of the putt. I think I got the best part of this challenge because I was going last. Watching the guys putt made the putt seem harder than I initially thought because we’re taking serious swipes at the ball. When it became my turn, I was up against a putt of about three feet and let me tell you, three feet from where we started was stupid good. I hit an amazing putt and it rolled up to just over two feet and looked for a moment like it might sneak in. Therefore, I was in the lead after one location and was very happy. I wanted to make this day as quick as possible but still had to be realistic that only two were moving forward from the first challenge.
Location two wasn't much easier. It was a long bunker shot that had to carry enormous swell and, let's be honest, long bunker shots are brutal. Add Big Break pressure and I think I'd rather eat nails. Since I was leading, I got to go first, not an easy task normally, and even worse now. I made a choice to switch sand wedges and go down to my 54 degree just to help it fly a little longer. Good choice because I hit what I thought at the time was a clear winner to about 12 feet. When the second location was over, I still led and the only real shock was that James thinned one over the green to get zero points.
On to location three. This was going to be an 80-yard shot. It was simple enough and a shot that I liked. Again leading off, so I wanted to set the bar high. I hit the shot and honestly have to grade it fair. I hit it to 12 feet, didn't kill myself, but didn't send the message that I wanted to send. Some guys hit really good shots, some average like mine. Expected to perform well in this challenge after his long putt was Rick and he did just the opposite. He seemed out of sorts and almost disinterested. At this point he was bringing up the rear and looking at going directly to the elimination challenge as the person who finished last was headed there. Three locations down and I'm still leading with one location remaining, a 160-yard shot.
Knowing after doing some math, all I had to do was hit the green with something similar to the 89-yard shot and I'd be safe and onto the next show. I hit a not-so-decent shot but it hit the green and only one person could keep me from show number seven. His name was Anthony. Of course I was sweating because all he had to do was pretty much get it on the top level and I was done. He gave me a gift and missed the green which made me safe, along with Mark who ended up winning the challenge.
Safe and onto show seven. Very, very happy. Rick directly to elimination. Come on Rick, snap out of it buddy.
The second immunity challenge was pretty cool, to say the least. Squares were marked on the ground and you had the chance to hit your ball into the squares and get as close to blackjack or 21 as possible. The catch, your opponent couldn't know your results, just your reaction. Some players reactions seemed like they were trying to win an academy award more so than winning the challenge. First match, James vs Anthony. James went first, (funny reaction), because I like James and he scored a 20. Good score. Anthony went second, hit two great shots and scored blackjack. Win for Anthony and now James was up for elimination. Match two, Isaac vs. Chan (movie role debut). Isaac goes first, handles himself with class and sits down with a 19. Chan steps up, hits three good shots and scores 21. Well deserved but the gamesmanship wasn't needed. As Isaac so colorfully pointed out, his antics weren't appreciated by Isaac or for that matter, any of the guys watching. Regardless, final match was between Anthony and Chan. Winner is safe, loser goes up for elimination. Chan went first and scored a 20 so now it was up to Anthony. Anthony stepped up as he had been doing pretty much the entire show and got blackjack. At the revealing of the cards, Chan's reaction was not the same as his audition against Isaac and when he knew he was up for elimination, I think he knew he was getting picked. We all know Rick wasn't picking James, he loves James.
This is where I can only speak of the show from what I watched because I along with Mark and Anthony were not present for the elimination, but it was epic. From what I saw and what I've been told, the match should have ended on the first hole, but Chan got two great breaks and the match endured for what they say lasted forever. In the end, Rick prevailed to the, for lack of a better word, delight of some players. As Rick stated during the show, he wanted to shut Chan up very badly for all his talk and his self acclamation as the 'Elimination King'. You talk long enough and you get bit, just like Rick said.
Chan's ride was over and the one thing I think all the players wished, was that Chan didn’t let all the guys get to know him. We never saw the real Chan, just a lot of BS and acting. I hope he realizes that there were 11 other guys here and he should have been real and let us see him, not the circus or eating grass, giving yourself names, etc.
Oh we'll, I'm just happy to have survived and make show number seven.
Talk to you next week,
I'd Rather Eat Nails than Hit Long Bunker Shots
Week six of Big Break Greenbrier. Oh, where to begin? Let’s start at breakfast as that seems to be our normal starting ground.
Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'
ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.
He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.
Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.
“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”
In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.
“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”
Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.
“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”
McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory
Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:
Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)
What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.
Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.
Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.
Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.
Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.
Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.
Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy
TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge
ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.
• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.
• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.
• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”
• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”
After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.
Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses
Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.
"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."
Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.
Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.
Walking in the par putt at No. 2. pic.twitter.com/zuSGZmVL3z— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.
A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.
Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.
Tiger gets it to 9-under.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
He's 4 shots back. pic.twitter.com/cAZtM14SlJ
Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.
His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.
Drive on 9 is approximately 824 yards off-line right. Approximately.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Slides by. Bogey. That’s deflating. Turns at -9 and needs to go lights-out coming home to have any chance.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.
He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.
This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.
Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.
Uh oh. This is left...— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Tiger picked the absolute worst time to stop going right on 16. Mercy.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) March 18, 2018
He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.
There were highs, and there were lows. But in the end it’s a 3-under 69 today to finish the week at -10.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Next stop: Augusta.