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.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.