Time to Work on My 5 Iron Putting

By Big BreakOctober 22, 2012, 2:30 pm

Some people have asked me if I’ve become a celebrity now that the show’s aired, and while there has definitely been more attention, nobody is recognizing me at the local Starbucks. Tim Horton’s though...that’s a different story. “Double double for you James?” You bet!

I’ll tell you one thing that is funny. Usually we set up a Big Break watching party in my home city of Abbotsford where friends and family come out and watch. This week, however, I’ve been in Edmonton, so I received numerous texts from friends in Abby fearing that I was eliminated because nothing was planned. Why would I plan a get together to watch me get eliminated, right? So I guess from now on I’ll be planning a party no matter what. I don’t want to give anything away!

Then again, apparently there are people out there that know the final results. And that their little secret is safe with me. The problem is that people are POSITIVE that I won, finished second, third, fourth....and down the line. So to those that were sure I was eliminated this past episode, your 100% positivity is correct only some of the time.

Episode 3 presented some interesting challenges. In the first immunity challenge I was pitted against my good buddy, Rick, because nobody drafted us at the breakfast table. Rick shot 63 in our practice round at the Greenbrier and that was about as high as he could have shot – good reason not to pick him. I suppose I wasn’t picked because at that point they knew the power of the saucer pass (I had been saucing around the house in similar fashion to at the warehouse). I’m kidding. In all seriousness, I think I wasn’t picked because I performed well in the glass breaking and draw-fade wall challenge. Here’s Rick and I walking up to the challenge.

Rick and I played the first challenge in the way I thought the producers designed it to be played, slowly increasing in distance from the previous guy, hitting the fairway. The other guys sure did things differently though.

I found the strategies of the guys that hit driver and hybrid first to be a little suspect; however, they all manned up and executed their shots. The challenge, in my mind, was intended to force your competitor to make a mistake. You really couldn’t go out and “win” this challenge, because your competitor always had the next shot. So, force him to make a mistake, right? With all that said though, if you simply hit good shots, it doesn’t really matter what your strategy is, you’ll probably win anyway.

Before the second challenge, the producers told us that we would be playing a hole measuring around 400 yards with one club. My thinking was that I’ll need a club to chip around the green if it came to that, plus I’m a dynamite putter with my PW. You can ask Rick. I was making everything on the practice green with my PW. If I selected 5 iron and found myself in the greenside bunker, then it was game over. Long story short, I only practiced with PW, hitting bunker shots, flop shots, putts, etc.

When we got to the challenge they let us know that it was closest to the hole in 3 shots, and the ball didn’t have to be on the green! That changed everything. Even if I was in the bunker, who cares, because I’d probably only be about 30’ from the hole in 3. Instantly I changed my strategy to go with 5 iron so I could get to the green in 2 shots where a PW would take 3. All the other players did the same except for Chan.
I played my first two shots really well, into the middle of the green with a 5 iron putt left to try and get it close. Unfortunately, as mentioned already, I didn’t practice any putts with my 5 iron! I really had no reference point for hitting the putt. What I do know is that whenever a putt with a hybrid or even a driver, the ball comes off hotter than you think, probably due to the longer shaft. I figured that would be the case with the 5 iron putt. I also decided that blading the putt would be the best way to go as well. Turns out, I should have trusted my natural feel and just hit the putt rather than overthinking it.

Long story short, the quality of play from the other guys was stellar in this challenge. It was not that easy! None of us were in trouble, and all of us were looking at a good chance of making par and even birdie. In the end, I was neither first nor last so I was then eligible to be picked for the elimination challenge.
That made me nervous, not going to lie. I knew Chan used his gut more than reason. Reason in this case said to pick Stu and Anthony. Both had been struggling a little bit and I really played well up until this point. But with Chan, you never really know. Luckily, he reasoned well.

Stu was my roomie for the first night at the Greenbrier. Partners in crime. He comes from a pretty sketchy background, being addicted to pain killers. The show was a big deal to him. It could have very well been his Big Break even if he didn’t win. He was well liked by the boys on the show; I know all of us hope he’s continuing on the right path.

I’m off to first stage of PGA Tour Q-School next week at San Juan Oaks. First round is on Tuesday, so no viewing party for the second straight week. Maybe I should ask all the other players at my site to come watch? That wouldn’t be awkward, right?

Time to work on my 5 iron putting.

Thanks,

James Lepp

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.