Just win, baby?

By Big Break ProducerOctober 31, 2013, 1:00 pm

Just win, baby.

Any football fan of a certain age knows that was the famous mantra of late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.  NFL legends and current Big Break NFL competitors, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice played together for a few years on Davis’ team in the early 2000s.  They even lined up alongside one another for the silver & black in Super Bowl XXXVII (that’s 37, to non-Romans).

They just lost.

Some ten years later, as fate would have it, Brown and Rice have become the first two teams to earn losses in Big Break NFL Puerto Rico, which means from here on in each episode could be their last.  What’s in a mantra?

As Rice and Brown fight to avoid being booted from the opulent Dorado Beach Resort, another player—one who can’t count the Raiders among his three former NFL employers—has grabbed Just win baby by the horns and thrown it to the ground like countless quarterbacks who dared to drop back into his path.

Former defensive end Chris Doleman is developing a reputation for being as mean to his Big Break teammates as he was to opposing offenses.  But take it from someone who was there − things aren’t always as black and white as the Atlanta Falcons jersey Doleman donned in 1994 and ’95.

To be sure, Doleman may not be expecting Christmas cards from fellow blue teamers Brian Cooper and Shannon Fish, and they have earned the nickname “Team Turmoil”.  But, barring something very Big Breakish, their run on the series is now guaranteed to go at least six episodes.  Having interviewed Team Doleman for their entire run on the series, I can tell you there is definitely a kinder, gentler side to the man who once played NFL football with a broken tail bone.

During her interview in episode 3, viewers may have noticed a huge piece of jewelry on Shannon’s right hand.  Yes, everything is bigger in her home state of Texas, but that bling came straight from Pittsburgh, PA.  It was the national championship ring of late Pitt Panthers coach Joe Avezzano, whose son Tony happens to be Shannon’s boyfriend.  He gave it to Shannon to take to Puerto Rico as a good luck charm.

Doleman—who happens to be a University of Pittsburgh alum—has a similar charm, which represents more than a decade of good fortune on the gridiron.  It’s a Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, earned when he was inducted to the prestigious club last year.  It’s a priceless symbol of a career very well spent, and of which Doleman is rightfully proud.  And here’s an exchange that occurred just before our interview the evening of episode 4:

ME: What’s that ring?

CHRIS: Hall of Fame.  (grins)  I’m lonely.

ME: Huh?

CHRIS: There’s only 280 of us.

ME: Aahhh... Nice.

CHRIS: Want to try it on?

I paused.  Heck, I’ll short-arm a NERF if you throw it too hard.  A Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, on my finger?  In my mind, that’s something that has to be earned.  Like the Stanley Cup.  A gold medal.  Or the Claret Jug.  That’s like sitting behind the wheel of your father-in-law’s vintage Jaguar.  You don’t just go around touching things like that without doing something pretty special.

After four seconds of consideration, I realized I’ll probably never be this close to that kind of hardware again.  I took the ring, and slipped it over my fattest finger.  And while it was still about 4 sizes too big, in my wildest dreams it was a perfect fit.

CHRIS: Go ahead and keep it.  Give it back to me tomorrow.

ME (in my head): What time does Positivo close?

ME, out loud (and in my head): That’s quite an offer.  But I do not want to be the guy that loses Chris Doleman’s Hall of Fame ring.  Tell you what, bring it to the interview tomorrow and I’ll just take a picture with it on.

He did.  I took three pictures.

How mean can someone be when he’s willing to let a guy he barely knows hang out with his Hall of Fame ring for a day?  Doleman’s compassion goes beyond hopelessly unathletic TV producers, too.  In January, he traveled to New Orleans during Super Bowl week – to help The Starkey Foundation provide hearing aids to needy residents.  The charity Doleman is playing for strives to make the world better by, among other things, helping at risk youth both at home and abroad.

Of course, what’s ultimately at risk on Big Break NFL Puerto Rico is Shannon’s and Brian’s collective sanity, and a chance to win it all if Team Doleman implodes.  So far, they’re just winning, baby.  Do the ends justify the means?  You may already have an opinion on that.  Is Doleman mad scientist enough to make it work?  Stay tuned.

Other interesting notes from episode 4:

- My personal favorite line from episode 4 was Mark Rypien’s response to his shot at the flop wall, which he admittedly caught a little heavy: “I’ve thrown many touchdown passes that weren’t spirals.  And I loved every one of those.”  (Honesty’s the best policy.)

- James’ holeout over the flop wall is the third such shot in Big Break history.  The others?  Ray Beaufils in Greenbrier, and none other than Will Lowery, whose shot from Indian Wells was replayed in episode 4.

* Watch out in future episodes for another player who had the foresight to bring a specialty club to Puerto Rico, and with much more favorable results.  Keep it here to find out who, and what club.

- Brian’s wedge − the one that sleeps with the fishes − was a 64 degree that he brought along specifically for the flop wall challenge.  You can understand why he doesn’t need it anymore.  In fact, Brian threw it in the pond as a favor to others.  He didn’t want the bad mojo to rub off on anyone else.  Allegedly.

- Emily’s celebration after earning immunity at the flop wall was a reaction to her poor play in the previous episode, and a testament to the intensity of the pressure players face on the series.  When asked about it, almost everyone was fine with that display of emotion.

- Mallory’s Driving Distance Average on the 2010 LPGA Tour was 243.8 yards.  She outdrove Juli Inkster, on average, by one yard.  The drive in episode 4 was into the breeze.

- On the first hole of Sudden Death, Tim’s bunker shot may have looked like the easier of the two for Team Brown.  But as we saw in episode 2, the bunkers on the Dorado Beach East Course can be somewhat unpredictable.  Mallory’s pitch shot was top-shelf.

- Coming into the series, Al Del Greco was widely regarded as the most feared NFL player on the cast.  That could change after this episode.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this blog incorrectly stated that the ring Shannon wore in episode 3 of Big Break NFL Puerto Rico was Chris Doleman’s Hall of Fame ring.  The writer apologizes for the inaccuracy.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.