Making the Turn - 7th Elimination

By November 22, 2005, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: The Big Break IV ' USA vs. Europe, is The Golf Channels fourth installment of its hit television series. As the title suggests however, this seasons format has been tweaked to include a team dynamic. But that in no way means the stakes arent high for each individual, as the contestants will be vying for entry into select European Tour tournaments in 2006.
 
Now that half of the original 12 contestants had been eliminated and with just two Americans remaining, the show took a new direction. And that was unfortunate news for Team Europe, as Americans T.J. Valentine and Paul Holtby were assured a spot in the next episode, meaning a member of the Euro team was set to be knocked off the show.
 
Big Break IV
Guy Woodman does his best Hale Irwin imitation as he does a victory lap after sinking the 45-foot putt to win the Ford Prize Challenge.
I didnt want to get to emotional seeing people go at this stage because its a point where Id rather see that someone else went than I did, said Marty Wilde Jr. on his feelings about the team concept slowing dissolving.
 
With the U.S. team sitting out, the Immunity Challenge had the four Europeans putting from four different spots on the green. Though similar in lengths, each putt had a different break and varied in speed. The player who needed the fewest putts total after putting from all four locations would win the immunity.
 
Wilde Jr. got things rolling quickly as he drained the first of his four attempts. He was soon matched by Guy Woodman, who also knocked down his effort. Thomas Blankvoort and Warren Bladon meanwhile each recorded 2s on the putt.
 
All four players made 2s on the second attempt before moving on to the third spot, where Woodman caught fire and turned the momentum clearly in his favor. His putt from the third location found the bottom of the cup but he then watched as both Blankvoort and Bladon knocked in their attempts. Wilde Jr. couldnt keep pace with Woodman and fell a stroke back after three rounds.
 
In Rd. 4, Woodman again found the hole on his first stroke to easily win the immunity and earn a chance at the Ford Prize Challenge, where a two-year lease on a Ford Explorer was up for grabs.
 
The biggest thing is relief, knowing that you are straight through (to the next show), that you have the rest of the afternoon off and you can just watch the others battle it out, said Woodman on his good fortune in the Immunity Challenge.
 
But his day wasnt done yet as he had one attempt ' from 45 feet' to roll home a putt that would win him the Ford Prize Challenge.
 
Marty had said he had an epiphany and he thought that Guy would hole it, said Blankvoort as they watched Woodmans long bomb effort. I didnt have an epiphany but I had a feeling that he might hole this as well. He just looked comfortable on that green today.
 
Turns out that Wilde Jr. was right on the mark, as Woodman sank the 45-footer to collect the two-year lease much to the delight of the cast and crew surrounding the green.
 
It was just one of those days when it was my day. It was nice to see, recalled Woodman on the meaning of winning the Ford Prize Challenge. Its just been a dream come true really, because Ive struggled playing the mini-tours and financially its tough.
 
As the excitement wore off following Woodmans big putt, reality set in on the three remaining Europeans, one of who was set to be ousted.
 
We all know it takes just one destructive shot and youre out, said Bladon on the anxiety-filled Elimination Challenge. But as long as you do your best you cant be disappointed.
 
In the Elimination Challenge the three players got to choose one of five separate locations to hit a shot. After the group had played from the three different spots, a random draw would determine a fourth and final shot. The player with most total strokes would be eliminated.
 
A little twist was thrown into the format. The player with the fewest strokes after the third shot would be safe from elimination.
 
Blankvoort was first up and chose a difficult flop shot that had to carry a bunker between the spot and the green. His attempt nestled to within 4 feet of the hole. He then watched as Bladon hit a brilliant flop shot that came to rest just inches from the hole. Wilde Jr. hit last and saw his effort come up well short of the hole leaving about a 12 foot putt.
 
Needing the putt to drop to avoid falling behind early, Wilde Jr. was up to the task, draining it to keep things all tied up after the first round.
 
It was a real boost for me because it looked like I was going to go down at that point, recalled Wilde Jr.
 
Bladon followed by electing to hit from a target 100-yards from the flagstick.
 
Im normally pretty good from that range, I can get quite a bit of control with my sand wedge, a bit of spin, so I was quite confident with that one, said Bladon the type of shot he chose.
 
Though not spectacular, Bladons effort settled some 20 feet from the pin. Wilde Jr. hit second and caught a bit of a break as his shot skirted around a bunker guarding the green which left him on the fringe looking at about 20 feet from the hole. Blankvoort then hit his shot just over the green stopping about 35 feet from the pin.
 
Big Break IV
Warren Bladon raises his arm in premature celebration before seeing his final chip to stay alive bounce out of the cup.
Like Woodman before him in the Immunity Challenge, Wilde Jr. began to seize control of the moment as his 20 footer hung on the lip before falling into the hole to give him a one shot advantage heading into Rd. 3. Bladon and Blankvoort both had missed their long birdie efforts.
 
Hes a streaky player. I mean, hell hit a bad shot but hell make a helluva recovery shot, observed U.S. team player T.J. Valentine.
 
With momentum on his side and his turn to make the decision from which spot to hit from, Wilde Jr. elected to hit from a mark 160-yards from the hole.
 
I just hit shots from there all the time it just seems like my sort of comfort zone, said Wilde Jr., referring to a practice hole he regularly plays on back home.
 
Keeping the pressure on, Wilde Jr. found the green and looked no worse than a two-putt away. Blankvoort, too, found the green as did Bladon with their attempts, though Warren was a good distance away. Bladon left his putt a good 6 feet short and then much to his dismay pulled his second putt left of the hole to take a 4.
 
Wilde Jr. was thrilled as his two-putt enabled him to win the bonus incentive and live to play in the next show. Blankvoort tapped in his second putt and thus carried a one stroke lead over Bladon to the last hole.
 
The final shot was from just off the green about 35 yards to the pin. The tough choice became which club to use: putter, wedge or short iron for a classic European bump and run.
 
Blankvoort fired first and chose to use his putter, much to the chagrin of the on looking U.S. and European teams.
 
I wanted to run up there and tell him, No, this is the wrong option, said Woodman on Blankvoort decision to use his putter.
 
When Thomas pulled out his putter we were all shocked, added Valentine, citing wet conditions and the inconsistency of the green for the reason of their concern.
 
But Blankvoorts long putt never lost sight the hole, coming to rest a mere 2 feet from the flagstick. Cast and crew immediately knew that Bladon now had the almost impossible task of holing out to extend the Elimination Challenge.
 
The cards were on the table, Ive got to hole it to continue, said Bladon on his chances to stay alive.
 
Having witnessed Woodman heroics in the Ford Prize Challenge and then Wilde Jr.s hot streak moments earlier, could Bladon pull off one of the greatest shots in Big Break history?
 
He made solid contact with his wedge and then watched as it tracked towards the hole, the closer it got the better it looked. Three feet from the hole, two feet from the hole, one foot from the hole ' it was dead on. The ball then began to drop into the back of the cup only to catch the back lip and pop out of the hole.
 
He hit a fantastic shot, I mean you couldnt have played it better and I have no idea how that ball did not go in, said Wilde Jr.
 
Bladons run came to an end as Blankvoort rolled in his putt to send the European team captain off the show.
 
Theres always the senior tour, for when Im 50, which isnt too far away, said Bladon, 39, with a chuckle.

The Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break IV: 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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