And Then there Were Three

By April 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
The Big Break V - HawaiiEleven contestants had originally flown to the North Shore of Oahu to try and become champion of The Big Break V: Hawaii. And now that just four ladies remained, the competition was starting to get as hot as the Hawaiian sand.
 
Ashley? Good solid player. But just has got a head on her that is enormous. And it needs to be taken off and kicked down field, said Julie Wells on her rival Ashley Prange.
 
Yikes!
 
Things are going to start to get intense. They are going to start to get exciting. True competitors start to come out when it gets tight like this, countered Prange.
 
The Big Break V
Co-hosts Stephanie Sparks and Vince Cellini greeted the final four ladies at the Big Break rock.
Co-hosts Stephanie Sparks and Vince Cellini informed the foursome that there would not be a Mulligan or Immunity Challenge, and that they would go directly into the Elimination Challenge. The format was simple: a random draw would decide each others first round opponent. The two players would then play two holes of stroke play and the player with the lowest score would move safely onto the next episode. The two losers of the first round would then play another two holes of stroke play to determine who was eliminated.
 
Jeanne Cho and Prange drew each other and would play first, with Wells going up against Kim Lewellen in the second match.
 
I knew I had to play my A game. She could put pressure on me right away, said Prange about her match with Cho. With only two holes, stroke play is essentially match play.
 
Both players got off to good starts by finding the fairway and then reaching the green in regulation. After Cho left her long lag putt within tap in range, Prange had a birdie putt just outside of 15 feet to take an early lead.
 
Its always nice to start off with a lead and you get to throw a birdie in your opponents face, recalled Prange. Her putt, however, hung on the left lip and she had to settle for a par.
 
On the second hole, Cho again found the fairway while Prange pulled her tee shot into the left rough. But showing the mental toughness that has made her the player to beat, Prange stuffed her approach to just six inches from the cup. Cho answered with a good approach of her own, her ball coming to rest 10 feet from the hole.
 
Needing to make her putt to force an extra hole, Chos birdie effort caught the left lip and spun out. Prange was safely on to the next show.
 
Feels good. Feels real good, said Prange on her victory. Now its really starting to get down to the nitty gritty.
 
After watching from the sidelines, Wells and Lewellen got their match underway by making a pair of routine pars on the first hole.
 
At the second, both players found the rough off the tee. Wells approach went past the pin but remained on the green, while Lewellens shot rolled through the putting surface and trickled into the rough behind the hole. She then got a little too aggressive with her chip and blew it past the hole some 8 feet. After a good lag putt from Wells who was assured a par, Lewellen was in a must-make situation. Her par putt got to the hole but stayed on the edge, giving Wells the win.
 
Relief. Big time relief. First of all I didnt expect to be here. Then I didnt expect to keep on making it and making it and making it, said Wells on her progression into the final threesome.
 
Now it was between Cho and Lewellen to decide whose Hawaiian dream was coming to an end.
 
I can only concentrate on what I can control, said an admittedly nervous Cho.
 
And nerves showed on her opening tee shot as she pushed her drive into a deep fairway bunker. Advantage Lewellen as she put her ball just 100-yards out from the green.
 
With her only option being to get the ball back in play, Cho hit safely out of the bunker but was still well short of the green. Her approach stopped on the front of the green as did Lewellens. Cho then missed her long par putt but tapped in for bogey. Lewellen was looking at a one stroke advantage if she could two putt. She blew her first effort, however, 3 feet past the hole.
 
The Big Break V
Jeanne Cho offers a hug to the departing Kim Lewellen after their match.
The pressure was very intense at that point, recalled Cho.
 
Too much pressure obviously for Lewellen, as she pulled her par putt and made bogey and in the process gave new life to Cho.
 
I was discouraged. A door had been opened there and I didnt take advantage of the situation, said Lewellen. I tried to forget it and go on to the next hole because there was nothing I could do about it there.
 
Their drives at the second hole were almost identical, their balls coming to rest within several feet of each other. Lewellen hit her subsequent approach to the fringe in front of the green while Cho played her shot to the back part of the putting surface.
 
Each player then hit aggressive birdie efforts ' Lewellens ball going past the cup by 8 feet and Chos birdie putt sliding 3 feet past the hole. And just like the previous hole, Lewellen again missed a crucial putt. Cho then stepped up and knocked down her putt for the victory and entry into the next show.
 
Ive never been so relieved after a match. I have never been so relieved after hitting a putt. I wanted that putt so badly, said Cho, who became one of the last three contestants standing. I wish that I didnt have to knock her out because shes been a great friend.
 
Despite the loss, Lewellen was happy about her overall performance.
 
The last few days Ive seen the Kim that I knew, the one that was fiery and getting in the hole no matter what. It was nice to have that back, to have the competitive edge that I once had, back, said the departing Lewellen.
 
The Big Break V: Hawaii airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break V: All Access airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (ET), as part of the networks Top Shelf Wednesday lineup of premium programming.
 
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”