Chips Continue to Fall in Vegas

By October 19, 2004, 4:00 pm
Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the fourth episode of The Big Break II Tuesday night, where 10 highly skilled golfers compete in a weekly showdown of skills challenges. The last man standing after the 11-week season wins the Big Break of his golfing career - an opportunity to compete in four Nationwide Tour events televised on The Golf Channel in 2005.
Even though two players had already been sent packing, the remaining eight competitors looked as if they were becoming a little too relaxed in the comforts of their Treasure Island penthouse.
So what to do if complacency begins to creep in?
Well, for starters, the players received an early morning surprise visit from co-hosts Rick Smith and Lesley Swanson to inform the group of a radical change in that days format.
With an even eight remaining, it seemed to be the perfect time to split the group into fours and let a little team competition decide the fate of who might be getting ousted from the show.
The two teams played four holes total with two players from each team playing the first two holes and the second pair playing the final two holes. Each group of two used a Ryder Cup-style format of alternate shot and four balls on each hole. Scoring like the Ryder Cup, the team who won the hole received a full point while a tie resulted in a half point.
The team to accumulate the most points after four holes wins the skills challenge and would receive immunity from the dreaded elimination challenge.
Our team on paper, you know, looked to be a little stronger, said team captain David Gunas Jr., who chose Bart Lower, Kip Henley and Don Donatello for his side. But in a two hole matchmy God.
John Turk, as captain of the other squad, picked Scott Yancy, Mike Foster and Sean Daly, who quickly dubbed themselves Team Penthouse.
The first mini-match, which consisted of captain Gunas Jr. and Lower going against captain Turk and Yancy, started off with a bang as Gunas rolled in a 25-footer for birdie to steal the first point of the match.
The Big Break IITheir luck, however, ran out on the ensuing four ball hole, as both Gunas and teammate Lower hit their drives into waist high heather and were unable to find their balls. Team Penthouse easily won the hole and picked up the much-needed point to tie the score at one apiece.
The match then moved on to the second set of players as the emotions and drama were ratcheted up a notch, particularly for one of the competitors.
I believe that if youre going to win this, you cant have any feelings for anybody. You want to rip them to shreds, said Donatello, who had already ruffled a few feathers with his competitive spirit.
After hitting a mammoth drive down the right side that had the advantage of bouncing off the cart path several times, partners Daly and Foster had just 160-yards to the hole. Their approach landed just short of the green and Dalys eagled putt tailed off a bit and came to rest about three feet from the hole.
Teammates Donatello and Henley were in with a par and could only watch as Foster had a putt that looked like a mere formality.
When Mike (Foster) got up to that putt, one thing came to my mind - he had missed a three-footer before to go on that plane ride, recalled Donatello about Fosters short miss in the shows first episode. It might be entering his mind.
Sure enough, Foster pushed his putt just a little and suddenly the point was halved and the momentum had swung the opposite way.
I was flabbergasted that he missed that putt, said Donatello. And then I knew we had em!
Proving to be prophetic, Donatello and his partner Henley made routine pars on the last hole to grab a point and send Team Penthouse on the road to the elimination challenge.
The Top-Flite mulligan challenge, however, came first and some Vegas-style gambling was to play a big part in the competition.
Each of the four players was given gambling chips and had to place bets on themselves on how good they thought their putting skills were from three separate distances.
I bet half of what I had, because I thought, Why not, its Vegas! said Daly on his strategy during the mulligan challenge.
Ironically big Mike Foster, the man who had missed two of the most crucial putts in the shows first four episodes, wagered his chips the best and won the challenge handily.
It was now onto the elimination challenge and Foster for one, felt the strange dynamics of having to compete against the players who he had just gone to war with in the skills challenge.
You work so hard as a team when you team up and give each other advice, and now theyre your competitors. And you dont want to be the one going home, said Foster.
Co-host Smith and Swanson met the final four on the golf course and laid out what was involved in the elimination challenge.
Each player was to hit four shots from the same spot, but the twist was that they each had to use four different clubs. From 146-yards out, the player with the highest total distance from the pin following the four shots would be eliminated. The group would first hit three balls and have their scores tallied before moving to a final round and a final shot.
With the exception of Yancy, who used a 7, 8, 9-iron and pitching wedge, each chose to hit a 6, 7, 8 and 9-iron for the difficult challenge.
Big Mike Foster shook off his mixed emotions and led the group after the first three shots with a score of just 55 feet 7 inches. He was followed by Turk with a distance of 94 feet 10 inches, then Daly who posted a score of 119 feet 8 inches.
Yancy had put himself in a tough position with a total distance of 141 feet 1inch as the final four took aim with their last shot of the day, and for one, the last shot they would take on the Big Break.
Both Foster and Turk took care of business and watched as the battle came down to Daly and Yancy, with the advantage going to Yancy as he was left with a pitching wedge in his hands to the 6-iron Daly had remaining.
The Big Break IIDaly hit first and watched as his ball hit the green, rolled up and over a swale and then off the back ending up some 50 feet away, leaving Yancy in the drivers seat.
Sean (Daly) steps up and hits his shot 50 feet away, which leaves this huge opening for me, said Yancy on his prospects. Ive got a pitching wedge in my hand, my most comfortable club, and I only have to hit it inside 30 feet.
In what came down to one of the closest competitions in the shows history, Yancys shot landed some 30 feet away from the pin and the measuring tape was brought out to get the exact distance.
The tape showed 33 feet 11 inches.
Yancys most comfortable club, it turns out, is the one that ultimately ended up giving him the most pain.
I realized at that point that I was three feet shy from staying around another day. So my time was done, said a disappointed Yancy.
Three feet? Three feet, commented fellow competitor Turk on the outcome. Its so incredible that it could be that close.
For Daly, however, it meant something else entirely.
It was the best three feet of my life, said Daly with a relieved chuckle.
Be sure to tune in to The Golf Channel next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the group rolls the dice to find out who will be the unlucky fourth player eliminated from The Big Break.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.