Driving to Make the Final Four

By November 16, 2004, 5:00 pm
Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the seventh episode of The Big Break II Tuesday night, where 10 highly skilled golfers compete to win an opportunity to play in four Nationwide Tour events televised on The Golf Channel in 2005.

With just five players remaining, co-hosts Kelly Swanson and Rick Smith opened the show and the skills challenge asking the players to attempt one of the hardest shots in golf - the long iron approach.

Starting at 185-yards out, each player would try to hit it closest to the pin. The player furthest from the flagstick would be eliminated from the skills challenge and the rest would then hit again from five yards further back.

The Big Break IIAfter Don Donatello, David Gunas Jr. and Kip Henley bowed out, John Turk and Bart Lower were left to battle for the all-important exemption from the elimination challenge. And sure enough, Lower got the better of the two as his approach on the final shot came to rest just inside Turks ball, relieving Lower from the stress of both the mulligan and elimination challenges.

Lets see, weve had six skills challenges and I have gotten to sit out three of them. So thats not to bad, said Lower about his good fortune.

But for Turk it was just another day at the office.

Ive been in every elimination challenge here so far, so why not? said Turk with a smile. Nothing ever changes.

With Lower looking on, the other four took part in the Top-Flite mulligan challenge, where an extra shot is rewarded to the winner to use in the elimination round that would follow.

Having to hit wedge shots from 60-yards out, the four players split into two groups. Donatello stuck his approach to edge out Henley, and then Gunas Jr. topped Turks poor shot to meet Donatello in the final.

David is a very interesting character because hes got very, very good hands, said Donatello, sizing up his opponent.

Having to knock his wedge to within 5 feet 1 half inch to win the mulligan, Donatello hit his approach close but had to wait for the official measure.

Pull the tape tight, pleaded Donatello as they calculated the distance. Youre giving me a heart attack!

It had to be one of the funniest things I had ever seen in my life, recalled Turk on watching Donatellos antics.

His fears turned out to be warranted, as Gunas Jr. nipped Donatello by a mere 1 inch giving him the hard earned mulligan.

It was now on to the elimination round and a long yet straight drive was the key to staying around in the penthouse in Vegas for at least another night.

A 5-yard wide strip was painted down the middle of the fairway and each contestant had three tee shots that would be measured for total length minus the yardage that they were off line. A drive that came to rest 280-yards from the tee but was 20-yards off line would be measured at 260-yards.

Again, the players were divided into pairs and whoever had the most totals yards in his three attempts would stave off elimination, leaving the other two to battle for the last spot.

Henleys overall length took out Donatello in one semi-final, forcing the angst-ridden Donatello into the final elimination round.

No one lives and dies with each shot more than that guy, said Henley laughingly about Donatello.

The other semi-final saw Turk beat Gunas Jr., setting up a showdown between two of the shorter hitters on the Big Break II.

I said to David before the challenge, You know what? Im sorry it has to come down to the two of us because I like you a lot and you like me a lot, but one of us has to go home, said Donatello on the days final showdown.

With his opponents scores already posted, Gunas Jr. needed three high quality tee shots to oust Donatello from the show. His first two were solid but not spectacular and he needed an almost perfect final swing to remain in Vegas.

I honestly bent down and said a prayer to the Lord to help me get through this so I could make a better life for my family and myself and give me a chance to win this thing, said Donatello about his wait for Gunas Jr.s final attempt.

The Big Break IIAs the Las Vegas sun quickly disappeared below the horizon, so too did Gunas Jr. and his hopes of sticking around for another day. His final drive plugged in the fairway and it wasnt enough to overtake Donatello.

Great, no roll. Bye-bye! Thanks Big Break, gotta go, said a good-natured Gunas Jr. about his departure.

Hes like the little kid that keeps you laughing, keeps it funny and the guy who breaks the ice all the time, offered Turk on the outgoing Gunas Jr. I knew he had a kind heart.

Be sure to watch The Golf Channel every Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET), as the battle for survival comes down to the final four on The Big Break 2.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.