Bunker Mentality at Carnoustie

By November 29, 2005, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: The Big Break IV ' USA vs. Europe, is The Golf Channels fourth installment of its hit television series. As the title suggests however, this seasons format has been tweaked to include a team dynamic. But that in no way means the stakes arent high for each individual, as the contestants will be vying for entry into select European Tour tournaments in 2006.
 
For the second straight episode, Team USA was given a free pass from the Immunity and Elimination Challenges as the European squad was in the process of being whittled down to two players.
 
Big Break IV
With the cameras rolling, Guy Woodman hits a shot during the Elimination Challenge.
Marty Wilde Jr., Guy Woodman and Thomas Blankvoort remained from Team Europe and had to face a series of bunker shots for the Immunity Challenge, including one from the famed spectacle bunkers at Carnoustie.
 
The mood had definitely changed and its definitely more of an individual thing, rather than a team thing now, observed Wilde Jr. as they prepared for the Immunity Challenge.
 
If youre too intense and keep thinking about what could happen and what might happen, youll drive yourself mad, added Woodman.
 
Starting from a greenside bunker, the players would hit from three different bunkers and have to hole out after each shot. The player with the fewest total strokes following all three bunkers would be safe from elimination.
 
Woodman and Blankvoort got off to good starts, both getting up and down in two while Wilde Jr. burned the edge with his putt from 8 feet to drop back a shot.
 
You just feel like you have to hit everything close and every shot has to be perfect, which is tough, said Wilde Jr.
 
Hitting from the second bunker, Marty fell even further behind as his putt for a two again slid by the hole. Woodman and Blankvoort, however, were in a tight battle for the immunity as they both sank their putts and were tied heading into the very dangerous spectacle bunkers.
 
Facing a 70-yard blast to the pin, the spectacle bunkers had the players staring into the face of the bunker that rose some 5 feet over their heads as they stood in the sand.
 
Youre so far down (in the bunker) you cant see anything. The flag, the green, anything, recalled Woodman on the severity of the bunker
 
From the outside they look very cool. From the inside, you dont want to be in there, added Blankvoort.
 
Blankvoorts first attempt came up well short of the green but his subsequent chip rolled up to within 5 feet of the hole. Woodman had a 25 footer to win it outright but his putt was long and to the right. Wilde Jr. meanwhile, missed his up and down effort and thus put himself into the Elimination Challenge.
 
Woodman and Blankvoort both made their knee-knockers to force a playoff between the two to see who would win the immunity.
 
They again had to hit from the spectacle bunkers and both hit their shots fat, coming to rest in the greenside rough. They each hit their ensuing chip shots to approximately 5 feet and if one of them could get their putt to drop they would move on to the next show.
 
Woodman, who up until this point had been lights out with his putting, missed on the low side then watched as his teammate turned opponent Blankvoort drained his putt to win the Immunity Challenge.
 
Guy has been so solid with that putter and he let that one slip by him. He left the door open for Thomas, observed American T.J. Valentine.
 
Now Im a part of the show for another week and getting another step closer to the goal, the eventual goal, said a pleased Blankvoort on his win.
 
It was now down to Wilde Jr. and Woodman to see who would be joining Blankvoort and Americans Valentine and Paul Holtby in the final four. The Elimination Challenge was three holes of stroke play, the player with the highest accumulated score getting his walking papers.
 
After hitting their drives on the first hole, both players found the fringe with their approach shots. Wilde Jr. rolled up his putt to 3 feet while Woodman nearly sank his effort. Woodman tapped in for par and Wilde Jr. matched him as they strode to the second hole all tied up.
 
Big Break IV
Marty Wilde Jr. makes the lonely walk towards the clubhouse.
Next up was a long par-5 dubbed Hogans Alley in honor of the great Ben Hogan, who won the 1953 British Open here at Carnoustie.
 
Wilde Jr. striped his tee shot down the middle with Woodman putting his tee ball to the right of the fairway but still with a good look at the hole and a decent lie. Both approaches came up a little short of the green, although Wilde Jr. would have to maneuver his third shot up and over a greenside bunker.
 
Playing first, Guy put the pressure on Marty as his effort came to rest just inches from the hole for a tap in birdie. Wilde Jr. proceeded to hit his chip well right and past the pin, some 13 feet away. Needing to run home his putt to keep pace with Woodman, Wilde Jr. blew his birdie attempt 3 feet past the hole and then astonishingly missed the comebacker for par. Woodman now held a two stroke lead with just one hole remaining.
 
I was really, really devastated. I just thought well thats it, its all over ' two shots behind. Ive thrown it away, said a visibly upset Wilde Jr. on the sudden turn of events. I felt that I had just hit the ol self-destruct button again.
 
Woodman put the final nail in the coffin as he knocked one down the center of the fairway at the last hole forcing Wilde Jr. to pull out driver and try to make something happen. Something did happened, but it was yet another blow to Wilde Jr., who pulled his tee shot left and O.B.
 
He rebounded nicely however, and was able to make a birdie on his second ball, but it was a 5 on the scorecard and not enough to overtake Woodman, who also had a 5 on the final hole for a two-stroke win.
 
The final four was now set: Woodman, Blankvoort, Valentine and Holtby.
 
This whole trip has been a rollercoaster for me, and I have been up and down hugely. And it can work for you or against you. You can hit some inspirational shots and then you can hit some really bad shots, said the departing Wilde Jr. on his emotions throughout the show.
 
You cant do anything but really like Marty, he is such a good guy, a heart of gold, said Blankvoort about his now former teammate. And hes funny.

The Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break IV: 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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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

    Getty Images

    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”