Early Birds Get the Worms

By October 21, 2003, 4:00 pm
The Big BreakThe Golf Channel aired the third episode of its 10-part original series, The Big Break, Tuesday in which 10 scratch golfers from around the country compete in a weekly showdown of golf skills challenges.
 
As is the format, one contestant will be eliminated each week until there is just one man left standing. The lucky winner will get the Big Break of his golfing career - exemptions into four Canadian Tour events airing on The Golf Channel in 2004.
 
After losing Garrett Garland in last weeks show, this weeks skills challenge and elimination challenge had everyones complete attention. Well, almost everyones.
 
Charles Calhoun, the shows resident clown, had overslept and in the process didnt get the kind of start hed hoped for heading into the day.
 
Enroute to the course for the days events, co-host Katherine Roberts jokingly told Calhoun, Charles, we were thinking you were trying out for the next reality show called Golfers Gone Wild, in reference to Calhouns rather auspicious start.
 
Once at the course, the group was presented with a skills challenge that would put a premium on touch and accuracy with a short iron.
 
Three 55-gallon drums were placed in front of each contestant. They would have 90 seconds to chip as many balls as they could into the empty barrels. The barrels were marked with three different point values - five, three and one - each depending on its level of difficulty.
 
The Big BreakJon Roddy was one of the first to take the challenge and he put on a display that had everyone quite impressed, including himself.
 
When I took my first couple of shots, the wedge that I had, the motion that I had were perfect for it, said Roddy, who posted an almost unbeatable score of 35 points.
 
You know, I thought I did good until I heard Jons score. I turned around and they put a 35 up there, added Jeff Brown in apparent disbelief.
 
Roddys high score did indeed hold up against the other eight competitors and he happily picked up a Sony Mini Hi-Fi Component System and the all-important mulligan.
 
Before the remaining nine knew it, the fun and games were over and the elimination challenge was upon them.
 
The collars are getting tighter, man. Were all buddies, but someone is going home, quipped Anthony Sorentino, adding, You're not really rooting against anybody, youre just trying to do your best.
 
For the elimination challenge, the contestants were faced with three difficult greenside shots ' a long bunker shot, a chip out of U.S. Open-style rough from just off the green, and an 80-foot shot from the fringe. Each players attempts would be measured from the distance it finished from the hole, and the one with the highest average total after all three shots would miss the cut and be eliminated.
 
The first shot ' the bunker shot ' was a scary shot, said Justin Peters, who placed second to Roddy in the skills challenge. I just tried to go back to the basics and let my natural abilities take over.
 
Luckily, no one left their attempt in the bunker, although a few shots did sail the green and a couple more just managed to reach the dance floor. After the long bunker shots were concluded, Sorentino held the top spot, but Calhoun, Brown and Roddy were in a little trouble as they made their way over to the thick, nasty rough.
 
In this type of competition every single shot is so big, every shot, noted Brown, who landed his chip close to the pin. Its not just the swing that comes into play, its your thoughts, your emotions. Its everything.
 
The results were varied coming out of the thick stuff, with the 26-year-old Peters jumping into the lead, but more importantly, it was Mark Farnham, Randy Block, Calhoun and Brown who were in hot water and starting to feel the pressure of the final shot.
 
The Big BreakThats probably the most nervous Ive ever been because of the fact that if I hit it short and it goes back down, I know Im packing my bags, said Block, whose performance in the first two shots wasnt cutting it. His final shot of the day nestled close to the target area and he would survive to see another day.
 
It finally came down to Calhoun, who had flown the green with his bunker shot and barely advanced his ball on the chip from the rough. Needing a miracle, Calhouns final shot was solid, finishing 10 feet from the pin, but it was not close enough to overcome the position he had put himself in.
 
Somebodys gotta win, somebodys gotta lose. Unfortunately it was me, but life still goes on, said an understandably dejected Calhoun, whose late start in the morning led to an earlier than expected exit that evening.
 
It was a shame to see him go. I was really disappointed it was him but it could have been any one of us, said Craig Pawling, voicing the opinion of most of the competitors. But that just goes to show you how this game works.
 
Be sure to tune in to The Golf Channel next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the group will face a shot Phil Mickelson has made famous The remaining eight square off in another round of tough challenges to see who will survive and who will miss the cut.
 
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.