Hawaiian Heat Sets Off Fireworks

By February 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
The Big Break V - HawaiiThe second episode of The Big Break V began with Matt Griesser, aka Sign Boy, making a surprise appearance help pair up the 10 remaining competitors into room assignments in their oceanfront cottages at the Turtle Bay Resort.
 
Upon entering their suites, the ladies discovered that they had been lavishly bestowed golf gifts that ran the gamut ' shoes, equipment, apparel, training aids, ball, hats, you name it.
 
It was Christmas ' better than Christmas, recalled Kim Lewellen.
 
The following morning co-hosts Stephanie Sparks and Vince Cellini met with the 10 ladies on the 16th hole to brief them on the days format and the rules for the Immunity Challenge.
 
Paired into two groups of five, a player from the first grouping had to choose a player from the other group to meet in a one hole, match play situation. The player who won the hole outright would win immunity, but if both players tied on the hole each would be forced into the Elimination Challenge. They drew numbers to decide the picking order
 
The Big Break V
Divina Delasin pumps her fist after draining a long birdie putt in the Immunity Challenge.
So the person who drew No. 1 gets to pick their opponent first. So what youre saying in essence is, I can beat that person. Youre calling that person out. And if I got called out, I would be pretty fired up about that, said Cellini in an attempt to raise the heat of the matches between the players.
 
Jeanne Cho of Orlando picked first and chose Nikki DiSanto.
 
Jeannes pick was quite obvious. I think everybody knew that one was coming, said Ashley Prange due in part to DiSanto being the least experienced golfer of the bunch.
 
Shes going to pick me and I knew it, I just knew it. And I was fine, I felt very comfortable with that, responded DiSanto. I was like OK, bring it on sister.
 
After the rest of the pairings had been decided, Cho and DiSanto got things under way at the 16th hole, a par-4 with water guarding the front of the green.
 
In what proved to be wise decision on Chos part, the pressure got to DiSanto as she pushed her tee shot well right into the trees and had to go back to the tee box to hit what was now her third shot. Her second tee shot also went right but held up in the rough leaving her 190-yards to the green. Meanwhile, Cho had found the fairway and followed with an approach shot that just trickled off the back right side of the green. DiSantos 6-iron fell short of the green and then watched as her chip raced 7 feet past the hole. After Cho knocked her birdie effort to within a couple feet of the hole, DiSanto conceded the hole and became the first contestant headed toward the Elimination Challenge.
 
In the second match, Katie Ruhe found the fairway off the tee. Her opponent, Lewellen, landed in the right rough although she was left with a decent lie for her approach. Nerves then caught up with Lewellen, however, as she nearly missed her second shot and watched in horror as the ball advanced only 15 yards further up into the rough. Her third shot hit the green but rolled off the back and came precariously close to going in the water. Ruhe, standing in the fairway, calmly hit her shot to within 20 feet of the hole. After Lewellen came up shy with her pitch effort, Ruhe rolled her putt up just inches from the hole and the match was conceded.
 
Next up was the match between former U.S. Womens Amateur champ Becky Lucidi and Aussie Dana Lacey.
 
I definitely respect Becky from every aspect. I mean, we both finished fairly high on the Futures Tour rankings together, so we both know we can play, said Lacey on the prospects of her match up.
 
The match did not disappoint either, as each player found themselves just off the green after their second shots to set up what mounted to and up-and-down contest between the two. Lucidi hit first and knocked her delicate chip up and over a mound and saw the ball come to rest two feet away from the cup. Lacey then fired at the flagstick and watched as it hit the pin and dropped straight down into the cup for a birdie and the win.
 
It was awesome. And she told me, I was going for that chip, said a good-spirited Lucidi on one of the most clutch shots in Big Break history. Its not a bad way to lose.
 
The Big Break V
Dana Lacey jumps for joy after chipping in from off the green during the Immunity Challenge.
The fireworks, it turned out, were just getting started with Divina Delasin and Kristina Tucker next on the tee. After Delasin found the right rough, Tucker blasted her drive 20-yards past her opponent and in the middle of the fairway. Delasin countered with a smooth mid-iron to some 25-feet below the hole while Tuckers approach came to rest on the back of the fringe. Tucker was a little weak with her putt but was only left with a tap in to make par.
 
When Kristina hit her putt and it came up a little short, it definitely put less pressure on myself, said Delasin afterward.
 
With the pressure off, Delasin ran home her 25-footer for birdie and was the fourth straight contestant to win an exemption.
 
In the final match of the day, pitting Ashley Prange against Julie Wells, both ladies bombed their tee shots down the pipe.
 
Ashley has an intimidation card, definitely, said Wells about her opponent. But those kind of people dont scare me at all.
 
Wells was up first from the fairway and hit a juiced 6-iron to the front of the putting surface only to watch it roll through the green and nestled in the rough just off the back. Prange, sensing her own adrenaline pumping and factoring in the wind, chose less club from her approach from 130-yards out. It didnt pay off though as she came up well short of the pin, about 45 feet away. Though her opponent was off the green, Prange was still away and left her putt dreadfully short of the cup.
 
I was actually very, very nervous, said Prange about the situation. Probably more nervous than Ive been in a long time.
 
No matter though, as Wells looked to close the deal with yet another improbable chip in. And sure enough, Wells effort crashed into the flagstick for a birdie to send Prange into the elimination pool.
 
When it came off it was right on line and I was thinking, if it doesnt check its got a chance, said a deservedly happy Wells. Thats the game of golf for you ' unbelievable, unbelievable.
 
So with five players safe from elimination, the next episode of The Big Break V will pit the other five contestants against one another to see who will be forced to leave the Islands of Hawaii.
 
Youve got the five who are safe and then you got the five who are sorting sizing each other up wondering what were going to have to do next, said Lewellen on the prospects of the next shows Elimination Challenge.
 
The Big Break V: Hawaii airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break V: 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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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.