Ladies Try to Get Over the Wall

By March 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
The Big Break IIIEditors note: The Golf Channels Big Break III ' Ladies Only is the third installment of this hit series. As the title suggests, however, this season is just for the ladies. The 10 contestants are vying for entry into select LPGA tournaments, including the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill.
 
After the group had been cut down to seven, the ladies retreated to their condo to let off a little steam, enjoy a good, ol fashioned barbeque and get mentally ready for what twist might be thrown at them next.
 
Big Break III
The infamous Big Break wall had the ladies trying to take their games to new heights.
We had hotdogs flying through the air and hamburgers being flipped four feet into the air. Im surprised we actually salvaged enough to eat, recalled Danielle Amiee, on the previous evenings buffoonery, before reconvening the next morning for the Mulligan Challenge.
 
In what co-host Vince Cellini described as taking their game to new heights, the Mulligan Challenge had the women attempt flop shots over an imposing 10-foot high wall that had been erected just a few paces from a green. The top-5 players who hit their shots closest to the pin would move into the semi-finals, followed by the top 3 into the finals where a winner would be decided.
 
You couldnt see anything on the other side, so youre kinda trying to measure where the pin is going to be. I mean, you looked up and all you could see was wall, said Sarah Sasse, who got off to a rough start by blading her shot halfway up into the wall.
 
After two rounds of attempts, the three left standing were last weeks sudden-death Elimination Challenge winner Jan Dowling, along with Cindy Miller and Pam Crikelair.
 
At this point the wall had been raised several feet and the line had been moved closer to the wall.
 
When they added the second wall it got a little more intimidating. I just opened up my blade a little bit more, opened up my stance a little bit more and just got really aggressive with it, said Dowling, whose final attempt landed within two feet of the cup - good enough to win the mulligan.
 
With the short game test out of the way, it was time for the ladies to bring out the big sticks as the Skills Challenge was going to test the long ball.
 
A grid was painted down the fairway from the tee box and points were to be awarded on the distance each player could achieve. Bonus points were then given to those who could land their ball in the narrow middle zone for accuracy. Each player was to hit three successive tee shots, followed by a tallying of the scores, and then one final shot.
 
I put myself in that first tee position, Youre in a playoff for the U.S. Womens Open, this is critical. Put your drive in the fairway, said Liz Uthoff, who stepped it up with three long blasts down the pipe for a total of 13 points and put herself in good position for winning immunity from the Elimination Challenge.
 
Closest to Uthoff after the initial three attempts were Crikelair and Dowling, both of whom needed a big final bomb if they wanted to challenge for the immunity. Both, however, came up short and Uthoff was guaranteed to see another day.
 
After having so many stressful challenges, this was like, OK you get a day off, just relax, said a relieved Uthoff.
 
Big Break III
After hitting into a pond, Sarah Sasse was forced to take a costly drop.
It was now time for the Elimination Challenge where course management was to be key as well as trying to control the emotions of the situation.
 
Each player was asked to finish out a hole from two predetermined spots. One, from 190 yards away from the pin in the right fairway rough, with a pond guarding the green in front. The second from 50 yards off the green with several trees obstructing the flagstick. The contestant with the highest combined score from both positions would be eliminated.
 
Cindy Miller started things off and took dead aim at the green with a fairway wood, only to watch in agony as her approach was well short and heading into the drink. Then, much to her delight, the golf gods intervened and gave her a mini-Big Break as her ball skipped out of the water and safely onto dry land, just short of the green.
 
Luck helps. Every golfer gets some good luck, said Sasse about Millers fortunate turn.
 
Sasse herself, however, was not so lucky. Her approach also came out short and fell into the pond, which cost her a disastrous penalty stroke.
 
Her third shot found the greenside bunker and her subsequent effort barely made it out of the hazard. The resulting 7 left her a full three shots back of the nearest competitor as they headed to the second part if the challenge.
 
Only an opponent's complete collapse would keep Sasse in the ballgame.
 
I dont wish poorly on anyone, said Sasse positively of her dire situation. I dont hope somebody hits a bad shot so that Ill have another opportunity.
 
As it turned out, it indeed wasnt in the cards as her total of 10 strokes left her on the outside looking in and she was sent off the show, leaving just six.
 
Shes really, really hard on herself, remarked Miller about Sasses emotions on leaving the show. And I want to say, Sarah, you cant do that honey.
 
I know Im hard on myself and I think that its something that held me back in this competition, said the departing Sasse. Its disappointing but I dont deserve to go any further.
 
Be sure to tune in Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET when a conflict arises that causes friction amongst the ladies before the fifth contestant is ousted from the show.
 
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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.