Carnoustie Turns Nasty

By October 12, 2005, 4:00 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 12 contestants will be vying for entry into select European Tour tournaments in 2006.
 
As the remaining contestants from both teams strode to the tee to meet with co-hosts Vince Cellini and Stephanie Sparks, the USA squad knew they would need to put some pressure on the Europeans to avoid falling yet another man down.
 
Big Break IV
Don Donatello from the Big Break II heated things up with his fist pump after draining a long birdie putt.
Informed that they were bypassing the Mulligan Challenge, the days format for the Immunity Challenge was 3 holes of alternate shot, using three players from each team. The team with the most strokes after three holes would be sent into the Elimination Challenge, but not before a little bit of dj vu was sprung on the guys.
 
Don Donatello, David Foster Jr., and David Gunas Jr. from the Big Break II (Las Vegas) were flown in to spice things up. They too would be participating in the 3-hole alternate shot format and if they were to win, both teams would be headed for the elimination.
 
The Big Break II team got off to a fast start with a birdie at the first, but not without a little controversy, supplied by none other than Donatello. After rolling in a tough, downhill birdie putt Donatello let go an emphatic fist pump accompanied by an even more emphatic yelled.
 
It was a good birdie. But I think his reaction was a little bit over the top, said Euro Marty Wilde Jr., who was put off by Donatellos antics.
 
I think I rubbed some people the wrong way, but I normally do that on the golf course, so its not anything different, said Donatello, chuckling.
 
The second hole was no different as things became even more heated when a rules discrepancy had Donatello again at odds with Team Europe.
 
After Big Break II team member Gunas Jr. hit a ball way right and into a collection of bushes, Donatello hit a provisional from the fairway that hit the flagstick and stopped within a few feet of the hole. They then decided they wouldnt even bother looking for the original, but Edoardo Gardino of Team Europe had other ideas.
 
That attitude of, Hey, just abandon the ball, just abandon the ball, is against the rules, said Gardino, who has caddied for the likes of Sergio Garcia and Seve Ballesteros.
 
Donatello, meanwhile, was fuming over what he thought was a breach of etiquette by the Europeans for not honoring his wish that they not join in the search to find their original ball.
 
I thought this was about honor and respect. If we didnt want them to look for it then they dont go look for it, said Donatello in the ensuing scramble for a rules official. But I guess this is their country so the can make their own rules.
 
Alas, the official deemed the Euros did nothing wrong in finding their opponents ball and play resumed with team Europe making a par on the second while both of their American counterparts made double bogeys. Suddenly all teams were tied going to the final hole.
Team Europe found trouble off the tee and basically took themselves out of the hole and straight into the Elimination Challenge. Now they waited to see if the Big Break II boys could help them out and also send Team USA into the elimination round. With each team having looks at birdie, neither could coax their putts into the hole as they then headed to a sudden death hole.
 
After a big drive into a greenside bunker for Team USA, T.J. Valentine splashed out to within 2 feet which resulted in a tap in birdie to put the pressure on Donatello, who was looking at an 18 footer to stay alive. He pulled it left and Team USA celebrated as their team would stay intact for at least another week.
 
Big Break IV
Edoardo Gardino took the loss in stride, saying he enjoyed the camaraderie and joking around eith the other guys.
With their win in the Immunity Challenge the USA squad also earned a try at the Ford Prize Challenge, where if anyone could knock down a 45-foot putt they would receive a two-year lease on a Ford Explorer. Unfortunately, no one on Team USA ever really scared the hole.
 
Now the focus was squarely on the Europeans in the Elimination Challenge as their team would soon be whittled down to four players.
 
That was kind of a tough feeling because we knew that one of our teammates wasnt going to be here the following morning, said Gardino.
 
In the Elimination Challenge the players were given two shots from 125-yards out to a green with point lines painted horizontally across the putting surface. Distance control was the key and after three rounds of two shots each, the player with the fewest points was to be ousted.
 
The challenge was made even more difficult as the Scottish winds picked up making distance control a chore.
 
I was fairly confident because Im not too bad hitting those low knock down shots, said Guy Woodman, who came out of the first round with the second most points with five.
 
In Rd. 2 Wilde Jr. continued his good play with six more points to lead the way with 13 total. Woodman was second with 12; Thomas Blankvoort had eight, while Gardino and Warren Bladon each were all square with six points.
 
After the top-4 point getters had shot in the final round and did well, it came down to Gardino and Bladon to see who would be staying. Gardino hit first and earned five points to put the pressure on the former British Amateur champ Bladon.
 
Youre nervous and youre put on the spot, recalled Bladon on his make or break final attempts. Hit it now or go home.
 
Down to his last swing, Bladon hit a solid shot that rolled up onto the green to edge Gardino by a point, sending the feisty Italian off the show and making the teams all even at four players a piece.
 
Its been great camaraderie, a lot of sense of humor, theres been a lot been jokes and there has been really, really good ambiance, said the departing Gardino. It doesnt get any better than this to be honest.

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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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.