Chock Full of Great Stories

By Constantin Preda, Big Break ProducerOctober 5, 2010, 11:54 pm

Twelve years ago, when I first started working in television, I realized that the most important elements to any TV show are great stories, and Big Break Dominican Republic is chock full of them.

Even though this is my first season working on Big Break, I realized the potential for dozens of entertaining and interesting stories from this reunion cast, and I think the backdrop of Pete Dye’s course “Teeth of the Dog” at Casa De Campo in the Dominican Republic is a perfect place to see them unfold in episode 2.

After a compelling episode 1 in which the BBDR competitors realized that not only will they be playing against previous Big Breakers, but also seeking out redemption in the Republic, I got to witness first-hand how these golfers dealt with the pressure on and off the golf course.

Let’s be honest; there is a lot at stake for these players: $100,000 with half of that going to the MVP of the winning team, a PGA or LPGA exemption, $30,000 in the Waste Management Challenge, $10,000 to spend at Dick’s Sporting Goods and tons of other prizes. All of those can change a golfer’s career and life for ever. And let’s remember: all of America is watching on national television.

Not to mention, we introduce the STRIKE ERASER (yes, I like to write that in capital letters) giving Brenda hope while she’s on the bench. If anyone holes out off the green then BAM, a strike can be erased from a player who has one in that show. When I interviewed Brenda, Blake and Football the night after we shot show 2, they were all pumped about this. It’s just one more twist to an already surprising series.

Right off the bat at breakfast, the men were riding high and feeling good about their win in show 1, until they realized Brian was on the fence about competing, and even though David was chosen by the men as their team captain, it seemed that Anthony also helped coach the guys. He brings genuine PGA experience to Big Break and comes off as a natural leader with high expectations. It was obvious he wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of winning—especially since this is a huge second chance.

He and the rest of the men’s team truly want Brian to be a part of the team on all fronts, but Brian’s attitude sometimes interferes with his ability to perform at what he considers to be his full potential. I think that dichotomy made for some tense and interesting conversations and moments in episode 2.

Now the women—even after a loss that ended with Brenda on the bench for show 2—were still gung-ho about taking control of the day, but if you listen to their “Glossy Posse” cheer at the end of breakfast, you can tell the wind was definitely sucked out of their sails.

Tensions really rose when Andrew found out that Lori wanted to take the men out three in a row in the first team challenge, and when I found that moment in post production in which Andrew pulls the men aside and tells them Lori’s intention, it’s like finding gold. I got really excited, not just because it’s a one of those reality nuggets I’m always looking for to showcase the nature of the players’ personalities, but because it also shows you a striking moment off the course at Safe City—something rarely seen outside of the Big Break series.

You have to remember that not only do these athletes have to compete against each other, but they have to play through the heat, the scorching sun and the unpredictable wind blowing in from the Caribbean. It’s a combination that takes will, determination, skill and focus. And tensions flare.

I think in episode 2, we also see how nothing can be predicted on BBDR. Football beats Elena after Elena beat him in episode 1; Blake hits his ball in practically the same spot as Brian did; Anthony chunks his ball; and Sara 3 putts. Blair said it best with, “this is how things can change so quickly on Big Break.”  Show 2 is a roller coaster. I hope you enjoyed the ride. I know I did producing it.

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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.