Its Getting Dicey in Sin City

By October 26, 2004, 4:00 pm
Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the fifth 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.
Another tense day of challenges began with the seven remaining contestants finding themselves at the unique Royal Links Golf Club, whose 18-hole layout includes replica designs of some of the most famous holes in and around Scotland.

Co-hosts Rick Smith and Lesley Swanson gathered the group around the hole that would be the site of both the skills challenge and the dreaded elimination ' a replica of Royal Troons famously short par-3 eighth hole, better known as the Postage Stamp.

First came the skills challenge where each player was to hit three different British Open-style shots ' first from knee-high greenside heather, then from a pot bunker next to the green and finally a full shot from the tee.

The Big Break IIWhen I saw where we were dropping, not only was it this nasty, nasty fescue, but it was on a downhill lie and we were hitting to a green that you had no room from the pin to the front of the green, recalled Bart Lower on the difficulty on the days first shot.

Don Donatello and David Gunas Jr. were unable to knock their shots close, and the remaining five that were closest to the pin advanced to the second stage of the skills challenge.

From a deep greenside pot bunker, one by one they blasted out, trying to nestle their balls close the flagstick.

Lower, Mike Foster and Kip Henley all played beautifully from the sand, leaving Sean Daly and John Turk sitting out the final stage.

Hitting tee shots from 146-yards on the Postage Stamp hole, the closest to the pin would win the challenge and be exempt until the next show.

After Lower sprayed his tee ball way left, Foster stepped up and knocked his within 20 feet from the hole, leaving Henley with a tall order to fill.

After Mike stuffed it in there pretty darn good, I knew I had to hit a great shot, recalled Henley. But that sort of took some pressure off me.

The relaxed atmosphere did him well as hit a superb iron shot inside Fosters to claim the skills challenge and stave off elimination for at least one more day.

It was then on to the Top-Flite mulligan challenge as the players were asked to try and hit balls through the eyes of giant dice. Given eight balls to use, the competitors first hit at the six and if successful in knocking it through one of the holes, they then moved onto the five and so forth.

After a four-man playoff cut the field to just Foster and Daly, the pair began a sudden death competition that seemed to last an eternity. Both players couldnt quite seem to shake the other as they went round after round hitting at the dice.

Finally, Daly broke through to win the challenge and earn what was to be an important mulligan in the days final challenge.

I was happy. You have no idea. That wall just wasnt going to let me in, said Daly. But it finally let me in to get the mulligan and it was huge.

With Henley looking on after winning the skills challenge and Daly armed with a mulligan, the players made their way back to the tee at the Postage Stamp. The elimination round was at hand and the seriousness of the moment was in no way lost on anyone.

Ten thousand dollars from Nationwide, a Ford 500 automobile, and four spots on the Nationwide Tour, recalled John Turk about what was at stake. Thats huge!

The elimination challenge would be test the players distance control. Using the club of their choice, each player took three shots to a line painted across the green. The player that posts the highest accumulated distance from the line would be ousted.

All the best players in the world would concur, that distance control is where its at, explained co-host Rick Smith. Being pin high, thats really important. If you dont have control of your ball ' long or short ' youre going to be in for a long day.

The players started off by each hitting two balls and then waiting for their totals before stepping up to the final shot of the day. As Rick Smith tallied up their scores, Daly and Gunas Jr. became aware that both were teetering on the brink of elimination, their scores being the highest of the group with just one shot to go.

Then, one by one, the players hit their final shot in reverse order, from best to worst. Things couldnt have gone worse for both Daly and Gunas Jr., as the group of four in front of them all hit solid approach shots and were safe from going home.

Daly, leading Gunas Jr. by a slim margin, hit first and quickly realized the shot wouldnt be good enough. He then turned and announced he was now going to use the mulligan he had won early in the day, catching Gunas Jr. a little off guard.

I said Oh, my god, recalled Gunas Jr. on the twist of events. Rick (Smith) looked at me and said, You forgot about the mulligan, huh? I said yep!

The Big Break IIFortunately for Gunas Jr., Dalys second attempt didnt fare much better, leaving his opponent with a small window of opportunity.

Having to get inside 19 feet, Gunas Jr.s approach landed on the green and rolled past the line, stopping 14 feet from the pin - good enough to stay alive.

I just so happy to still be in, said the obviously relieved Gunas Jr. I just know that if I can get into that match play final I got a good chance to win the thing. But I gotta get there first. You gotta survive a few more bullets.

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