Pressure Packed Chase For Par

By November 2, 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.
 
With the field of contestants nearly cut in half, the final seven learned the latest twist in the shows format.
 
Big Break IV
The European team confers with their caddie as they formulate a game plan for the Immunity Challenge.
Skipping the Mulligan Challenge for the day, the two teams headed straight into the Immunity Challenge where the bells and whistles of some of the others challenges would be stripped bare and pure golf was to be the focus.
 
Team USA, with three remaining players, and Team Europe, with four, were each to play three holes ' a par-5, a par-3 and finally a par-4. If the team as a whole could shoot par or better they would be safe from going into the Elimination Challenge. Therefore, if both teams failed in the challenge, then all seven men would head into the elimination round. Conversely, if both teams succeeded, then no one would be sent home.
 
It was a very interesting challenge. It was literally just up to us. We knew what we had to do and it was whether we did it or not, said Marty Wilde Jr. from Team Europe.
 
With the U.S. squad hidden away as not to be given the advantage of seeing how to play the holes, Team Europe got off to a nice start as Warren Bladon and Wilde Jr. each made birdies on the par-5. Thomas Blankvoort was in with a par and Guy Woodman could not get up and down from the greenside rough and made bogey to leave the Euros 1 under collectively.
 
With Bladon and Woodman in with pars at the par-3 second hole, Wilde Jr. was unable to get his 15-footer for par to fall and left Blankvoort with a chance to keep the team at 1 under. His 10-foot putt for birdie, however, skimmed the left side of the hole and left Team Europe at even par as they moved to the final hole.
 
As a team you just got to get over it and say, OK, weve hit some bad shots but were still even par, said Wilde Jr. after his bogey left his team on the edge of the Elimination round. We can just go into the last hole and get four pars and weve done it.
 
The pressure of beating Old Man Par started to get to the Europeans at the final hole as they struggled to reach the par-4 green in regulation. Blankvoort and Wilde Jr., both well short of the green on their approaches, recovered nicely with a pair of up and downs for pars. Woodman, with a chance to seal the deal by knocking down a birdie putt, couldnt capitalize however, leaving the outcome of the team in Bladons hands.
 
On the back of the green in two, Bladon blew his first putt past the hole and now stared at a 4-foot comebacker to keep his team out of the Elimination Challenge. A tentative stroke by Bladon saw the ball break sharply to the right of the hole, leaving the team captain to kick his putter in disgust.
 
I did feel very angry and somewhat responsible, recalled Bladon. But I was also disappointed that it actually came down to that putt when we had wasted all those other chances and I shouldnt have been in that position.
 
Now it was Team USAs turn to determine their fate, and they, too, got off to a solid start as team captain Paul Holtby coaxed in a birdie putt at the first to put the team at 1 under.
 
Big Break IV
U.S. team captain Paul Holtby hits a delicate shot during the Immunity Challenge.
So we left that (first) green at 1 under par. I was very comfortable with where we were at, said a suddenly confident Holtby.
 
That confidence must have spread to his teammates as each player of Team USA took dead aim at the par-3 second hole and all had chances for birdie. Randall Hunt fired first and came up just inches shy of getting his team further into red numbers. Holtby followed, but he too just missed leaving T.J. Valentine with the opportunity to put the U.S. at 2 under. A quick stroke and a slight pull kept the team at one under going into the last hole.
 
I felt bad for the team because here we had a chance to get really comfortable now and it just didnt go in. I was pretty frustrated, said Valentine.
 
After launching their tee shots on the final hole, the U.S. squad looked to be in complete control. Things quickly began to deteriorate as Hunt picked the wrong club and left his approach well short of the green. He then he followed up with another poor effort that barely made it to the putting surface.
 
All of a sudden, Team USA needed a couple of short putts to fall to avoid the elimination round. Valentine again missed a relatively easy birdie putt that would have saved the team and then it was back on Hunts shoulders. If he could sink his simple 3-footer he would go from goat to hero. Hunt missed his mark, taking a double bogey on the hole and sending his team, along with the Europeans, to the Elimination Challenge.
 
I missed the putt and I put my team in the Elimination Challenge, said Hunt on his poor performance. That really took a lot of wind out of me because Paul and T.J. did what they were supposed to do.
 
The only good news for both teams at this point was that each persons odds improved greatly due to the number of players now having to compete in the Elimination Challenge, which will be the entire focus of next weeks episode.
 
We were all surprised. We got together then, both teams, going How did you do that? said a slightly bemused Bladon. I just couldnt believe it.

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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    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.