The Real Brian Cooper

By Big BreakNovember 2, 2012, 8:00 pm

Where to begin with Episode 5. Just like any other morning, it started out very early, foggy and did I say it was early? Breakfast was just as good as the day before as Golf Channel made it a point to make sure that we were more than taken care of. Breakfast was great, just a little more quiet.  I’m not sure if that is because we were losing people by the show or if tensions were just getting that much higher. I think it was more the pressure.
Once on the course, loosening up and hitting balls, we found out that we were finally getting to one of the hallmark shots of Big Break – 'The Flop Wall'. Once we made it out to the course and actually saw the wall, TV does not do the wall justice. It's more than just the fact that the wall is 9 feet, you can't see your target behind the wall, so the illusion of the wall seems even bigger.
The rules of the challenge were simple.  Three flop shots from three different distances; 9 feet, 6 feet and 3 feet. No excuses from me, but something just didn't feel right to me – both in my head and with my golf swing – but I'm a gamer and I had to make this work. The flop shot to me is a fairly easy shot. I play it well and feel very comfortable with the shot. My first shot was less than desirable, but I just couldn't imagine using my mulligan so early. In a regular event, that putt is makeable, but we're not putting, so screw that thought pattern. Only one player hit a short worse than mine, Rick. So, we had some distance to make up. Ray, Mark and Anthony hit really good shots with Ray actually holing out his mulligan shot. With my second attempt, I didn't really do much better and knew at this point that there was no chance that I would advance through this challenge, so it was time for me to get my head right for the second challenge, because I was going to need it. It was now just a matter of who was going to be safe and who would be joining me at the second location. After the third and hardest chip – it was my best shot I might add – and the best shot of the final location was 2 feet. Mark and Issac were safe and they deserved it.
The second Immunity Challenge consisted of three locations. A greenside chip that had to be within 5 feet, a shot from about 140 yards that had to be within 12 feet and then the toughest of the shots – a side hill shot from about 180 yards that had to be within 25ft. I really needed to redeem myself, but again, I was struggling mentally and had to battle through.  James was the head of the class at location one with the saucer pass.  There was a mixture of success for the guys, but I really stunk it up.  As the show indicated, I was very frustrated.  Many people think my frustration was directed at Anthony, but in fact it was more directed at my inability to handle shots that I've handled in my sleep. Anthony just happened to show sympathy at the wrong time. Unlike some people, I made it a point to apologize to Anthony very quickly, it just was not caught on TV. So, I was in last place and staring the Elimination Challenge dead in the face. On to location two.  The guys really struggled. By the time it got to me, I had the chance to make a huge move with one swing of the club and that is what I did. I painted the flag and moved into solo third and on the advancement line to move onto the next show. One location left and my horrible day could be forgotten. If you think the guys struggled at location two, location three was even worse.  No one did anything worth mentioning and when I had my fate in my own hands, I threw up all over them and paved my way to the Elimination round. All that was left was who was going with me and who was I picking.
It came down to me having to choose between Rick and Ray. Ray, being my roommate while on the show was a tough pick for sentimental reasons but reason and feelings had to be thrown out the window. I had to pick whom I thought I matched up better with or whom I thought was playing just as poorly as me. There were lots of rumblings from the other guys during play and at lunch about who was struggling and what not. The consensus, although not asked for was that Ray was maybe not on top of his game, but I knew Rick wasn't either. I saw the shots, I just had to weigh pros and cons. When it was all settled, the main factor in my decision was I just didn't know enough about Rick's game to pick him. So, I picked my roommate. Not an easy pick, because he and I both wanted to make the final duel together.
The elimination was simple. It took place on the 14th hole on the Snead Course and played out from three locations, playing the hole twice. The first location was from 180 yards and I was first to play. It wasn't about pin seeking, it was more about hitting a good shot and making Ray match it. I thought I hit a shot better than the one I hit, but was pleased with the outcome, under the pin about 15 feet away. I knew I could make this putt. Ray followed me with a good shot of his own and would putt first. When he missed, I felt a surge for the first time today, because I was finally in charge. Something that I did not feel all day. However, I missed my putt, even though it was tracking the whole way. Just a lack of pace.
Back to the tee and I chose driver, even though I had been struggling with the driver since I arrived. Before I hit my tee shot – I think it was simple to see that I was not hitting the driver well – I was thinking, “try to apply pressure.” Unfortunately, due the horrendous tee shot, I gave Ray relief because I was in two feet of high hay with pretty much a prayer. He hit the fairway and then hit a good wedge to about 15 feet. Then it was my turn. Not a great lie, two foot high fescue and existence on the show at stake. What happened next was probably the best shot I've ever hit under the circumstances in my life. Not only did I get it out of the hay, but managed to get it on the green at pretty much the same location as my first putt. Ray putted first and when his putt peeked at the hole but slid by, I again had the chance to close this out. I think I hit the exact same putt, same pace, same result, about two rolls of pace short from the heart.
Back to the tee.  Ray, sticking to his iron play, hit another good tee shot in almost the same position. Me on the other hand, I stuck with driver even after that awful tee shot. I didn't hit it much better, but this was in play and I had an okay look at the pin. Ray played first and hit a really good shot but it spun off the green. Again, I felt a surge knowing that if I could get a good shot, I would have the advantage. Seeing Ray's shot spin pretty severely from right of the pin, I thought that I had a great angle and the possibility of getting it close. I could not have played it any better with 10 balls. I hit it on the right edge of the green and it caught the slope and rolled to about six feet. When Ray missed his putt, it was my time. I had to take some time to collect myself – so many thoughts were racing through my head. When that putt went in, all of the bad shots of the day were forgotten, and I felt this surge of emotion rush through me. All that kept going through my head was, I wish my Dad were here to see this and the moment took over.
I think by the looks of the show, I'm made out to be the hot head, but in reality, those who know me know I am something different. I didn't grow up a golfer, I grew up playing contact sports, so being physical and showing emotion is what I know. I'm an emotional golfer. I expect a lot out of myself and when I don't perform to my standards, I show that emotion. I don't do it to be 'that' guy or to disrespect my family, friends, fans, the game of golf, sponsors and most importantly, myself. I'd like to think that those who saw the end of the show and my interview see the other side of me, the side that is a family man, who holds everyone accountable, who respects the game and one who shows just how much this opportunity and the game of golf means to me. It means so much to me, it sometimes hurts me to my core.
Take the time learn about the real Brian Cooper, I think you'd like him. He sure likes and appreciates you for tuning in to Big Break Greenbrier.


Brian Cooper

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''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 and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''

Park's stumble creates wide-open finale

By Randall MellNovember 18, 2017, 11:46 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park didn’t turn the CME Group Tour Championship into a runaway Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

She left with bloody fingernails after a brutal day failing to hold on to her spot atop the leaderboard.

OK, they weren’t really bloody, but even the unflappable Park wasn’t immune to mounting pressure, with the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the money-winning title among the prizes she knew were within reach when she teed it up.

“It’s honestly some of the worst pressure,” Stacy Lewis said of CME week. “It’s so much pressure.  It’s just really hard to free yourself up and play golf.”

Lewis isn’t in the mix for all those prizes this year, but the two-time Rolex Player of the Year and two-time Vare Trophy winner knows what the full weight of this week’s possibilities bring.

“It’s almost nice to come here without all that pressure, but you want to be in that situation,” Lewis said. “It’s just really tough.”

Park is no longer in charge at Tiburon.

This championship is wide, wide open with a four-way tie for first place and 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Park is one shot back after stumbling to a 3-over-par 75.

Count Michelle Wie among the four tied for the lead after charging with a 66.

Former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn (67), Suzann Pettersen (69) and Kim Kaufman (64) are also atop the leaderboard.

Kaufman was the story of the day, getting herself in contention with a sizzling round just two weeks after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Park is in a seven-way tie for fifth place just one shot back.

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Lexi Thompson (69) is in that mix a shot back, as is Lewis (67), who is seeking to add a second title this year to her emotional win for Houston hurricane relief.

For Wie, winning the tournament will be reward enough, given how her strong rebound this year seemed derailed in September by an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie fought her way back from two of the most disappointing years of her career, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” Wie said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun. That’s when I play my best.”

All the subplots make Sunday so much more complicated for Park and Thompson, who are best positioned for a giant haul of hardware.

They have the most to gain in the final round.

Park has already clinched the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, but she can add the Rolex Player of the Year title, joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both those awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978.

A fifth place finish or better could give Park the Player of the Year Award outright, depending what others do.

“There are a lot of top players right now at the top of the leaderboard,” Park said. “Keeping my focus will be key.”

Thompson can still take home the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the CME Globe jackpot. She needs to win the tournament Sunday to win Player of the Year.

Like Park, Thompson is trying not to think about it all of that.

“I treat every tournament the same,” Thompson said. “I go into it wanting to win. I’m not really thinking about anything else.”

The Vare Trophy for low scoring average is Thompson’s to lose.

Park has to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson on Sunday to have a shot at the trophy, and they are tied at 9-under overall.

The money-winning title is Park’s to lose. So Yeon Ryu has to win the tournament Sunday to have a chance to wrestle the title from Park, but Ryu has to pass 31 players to do so.

The CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot remains more up for grabs, with Thompson and Park best positioned to win it, though Jutanugarn is poised to pounce if both stumble. A lot is still possible in the race for the jackpot.

The pressure will be turned way up on the first tee Sunday.

“There is always that little bit of adrenaline,” Thompson said. “You just have to tame it and control it.”

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

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.

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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

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

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 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.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

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.”