Its His Big Break - The Open

By George WhiteJuly 19, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Hes here at the British Open, but only because his girlfriend fronted him the entry fee for qualifying. When youre 40 years old, a plumber by trade ' or is it a picture-framer by trade? ' you just dont have 110 pounds ($200) for a round of golf.
 
Warren Bladon is the gent, and viewers of The Golf Channel will remember him as one of the 'Big Break IV' participants at Carnoustie. Hes spent his entire adult life bouncing around golf courses, frequently just on the fringes of respectability, futilely searching for sponsors, maybe a sugar daddy or two who could pay his expenses while he won enough money to get over the hump.
 
Warren Bladon
Warren Bladon is competing in his third Open Championship.
It never happened. So hes taken a series of odd jobs, even ran a pub at one time for a friend. He works during the week, then when he can get into a competition or two ' mini-tour events, English county competitions, whatever ' he rushes out the morning of the event and tries to play serious golf. Not the best preparation, certainly. But thats the life of a non-sponsored golfer.
 
It's normal life for most people, paying the bills. It's day-to-day life, he said.
 
Ditto for the girlfriend, who makes a living working for an auto dealership. She works hard, comes in, gets paid, said Warren. Week and a half later, you're thinking you've only got so much money to last.
 
Card: Follow Warren at the British Open
 
So the lady put the qualifying fee on her credit card. And Bladon made the most of it. He finished in the top three out of 96 hopefuls, good enough to tee it up in the Big Show Thursday.
 
I don't have a great job, Bladon explained his predicament. It doesn't pay me that much money. At the time I didn't have the money to pay and she offered to put it on her credit card, so I accepted. She said on one condition - that you practice a little bit, so at least you give yourself a good chance of getting through the first stage. One-hundred-and-10 pounds for a round of golf is a lot of money.
 
Warren agreed to her condition, working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then going to the course in his hometown of Coventry for a few holes, then some chipping and putting. But it isnt easy to find time for golf every evening when youre also doing a 40-plus-hour work week. He works fulltime framing pictures, making about $10 an hour, but a couple of days a week he augments that by doing plumbing for a friends business.
 
Oh ' that friend is also his caddy this week. How much is Bladon paying the caddy? He isnt ' the caddy is paying for the experience of getting to carry a bag in the Open. Uh, the caddy is also paying Bladons expenses at Hoylake this week.
 
You would think Warren is quite awed by the experience of playing such a momentous tournament. But he really isnt ' he has played in two British Opens in the past, and even competed once in the Masters. That was after he won the British Amateur. He even played The Memorial that year ' 1996.
 
His highlight of the week in Augusta was playing nine holes of a practice round with Jack Nicklaus. Bladon had been practicing all morning long and exhaustion finally got to him. He had to walk in, leaving Nicklaus and U.S. Amateur Steve Scott to carry on the final nine.
 
It was brilliant playing with him (Nicklaus), said Bladon. He said where the pins were going to be. It was wonderful, just what you expect.
 
Bladon had two long breaks from tournament competition - in his 20s when he didnt play from 21 to 26, then after he won the British Amateur at age 30, he basically quit the tournament regimen again at age 34. He plays only one or two tournaments a year, he says, which is where his career is now.

I don't like not play, he said, adding that he plays now twice a week at the local course since his various jobs take so much time. I'm still a professional golfer in the loosest term.
 
Bladon actually tried the U.S. tour school last year after The Big Break experience, but he washed out in the opening rounds of a local qualifier in Atlanta. The Big Break, incidentally, was most enjoyable to Warren. It was great fun, yeah. I got my Bridgestone clubs out of it, he said.
 
So, he got his clubs free. They dont come cheaply, you know. And he doesnt have the manufacturers chasing him like they once did when he played in the tournaments. Over the years I have (telephoned) a lot of them and said, I'd like some balls or something. And you get, No, no, no. Not here, not now.
 
And Bridgestone said, Yeah, we'll give you as many as you want.
 
It was sweet words to a man who has had to struggle for a quid or two most of his life. But he finally has gotten a break by making the Open field. He earned about $1,600 from final qualifying. And he is guaranteed at least $3,800 ' the last-place payoff ' for competing in the Open. That, he says, will enable him to repay the loan from his girlfriend for qualifying.
 
And, even more, it has proven something to Bladon. I think it just shows that I can play, he says, simply.
 
People have written me off, and I'm now 40. I don't think it's an age issue there's no reason you can't win the Open in your 40s. If I got on the European Tour, I think after a bit of time I could perform on that (tour) and stay on it. It just takes money.
 
Making his way trying to earn a living doing the trades in England has been an ordeal for him ' It's been up and down, conceded Bladon. I've had loads of highs and loads of lows. It's not been very steady.
 
Through it all, though, the love of golf has never once wavered. I love it. It's my passion, my dream, he said.
 
This week, he makes no promises, either to himself or his fellow tradesmen who are pulling for him. He wants to enjoy the moment with his lady, and when it is done, he wants to know that he didnt cheat himself out of one moment of fun.
 
I just want to do as well as I can, he said. I want to come off the course knowing that I haven't been overcome by it, and just control myself and hit the right shot at the right time.
 
And if I do that, then I'll be happy.
 
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  • Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

    By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

    In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

    Made Cut

    The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

    Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

    “I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

    Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

    Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

    This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

    Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

    Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

    The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

    Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

    Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

    The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

    First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

    “You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

    A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

    “The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

    For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

    Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

    “I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

    Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

    “Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

    Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

    Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


    Missed Cut

    Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

    Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

    “That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

    Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

    While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

    Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

    Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

    An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.


    Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:


    Original story:

    Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

    President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



    Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

    Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

    By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

    Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

    ''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

    Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

    ''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

    Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

    ''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

    Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.