Crews Eliminated as Gibson Plays WaybrBack onto The Big Breakbr

By Golf Channel Public RelationsNovember 1, 2006, 5:00 pm
Charlie Gibson (Fortuna, Calif.) earned a second chance on The Big Break VI: Trump National as Albert Crews (Homer, La.) was eliminated by Jeff Mitchell (Llano, Texas) in a one-shot playoff in the sixth episode Tuesday night.
 
While Crews is thinking about life off the series, Gibson is back on the show. And it all came thanks to Donald Trump.
 
Previously eliminated in the third show, Gibson was granted new life when Trump stepped in and once again changed the direction of the series. In a surprise move, he announced that the four men who had been eliminated from the show would participate in Playback Challenge. The winner would earn the right to compete in an Elimination Challenge with the five males still on the show.
 
The Playback Challenge pitted Gibson, Sid Corliss (Cumming, Ga.), Rocky Rockett (Gastonia N.C.) and Gavin Slabbert (Orange Park, Fla.) in a stroke play match on Nos. 14-16 at Trump National Golf Course, Los Angeles.
 
Playing steady, Gibson made three pars to force a playoff with Slabbert. On the first extra hole, No. 16, both made par before Gibson sank an 8-foot birdie putt for the victory on the second extra hole.
 
Slabbert said he was hoping for a miss while Gibson was sad to eliminate him, but was quick to add he was, happy about finally performing on the show.
 
His work was just beginning because five men with wounded egos fighting for survival was not a welcoming task.
 
In the previous show, the men lost to the females in a five-hole match play competition 4 ' 2. The victory in the battle of the sexes allowed the ladies to watch the action in episode six while the men fought off elimination.
 
The format for the Elimination Challenge was three rounds in which the competitors hit two shots from different tee boxes located 165 yards, 150 yards and 130 yards from the green on the par-3 17th hole. Point circles were on the green and competitors earned points depending on where their ball came to rest.
 
Making the Target Challenge even more difficult was a strong wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean that made club selection guesswork. From the 165-yard location players hit clubs ranging from a 7-iron to a 3-iron.
 
Youre hitting two balls from three different locations in the wind, explained Gary Ostrega (Westfield, N.J.). It was very difficult.
Gibson got off to a fast start, tallying five points to tie for the lead on the first location. After being shut out on the second round, he inked one point on his final shot to secure a spot back on the show.
 
Crews, however, wasnt as fortunate. Befuddled by the wind, his two point total through the first two locations was a mere one point better than Mitchell.
On his final two shots, Crews managed only one point giving Mitchell a chance at staving off elimination by earning three points on his final two swings.
 
All I was tying to do was get a thought in my brain to allow me to do what I know I can do, said Mitchell, who has one PGA TOUR victory to his credit.
 
The Texan put both shots on the green for two points and extended the Elimination Challenge to a one-shot playoff from 130 yards. Going first, Crews ball found the two-point circle to once again put the pressure on Mitchell. He responded with his best shot of the day to earn three points and a spot on the next show.
 
While eliminated, Crews remains one of the most unique stories in the history of The Big Break series. At first glance he didnt belong. Sporting an awkward looking cross - handed grip - where his right hand is positioned on top of the left when gripping a club ' developed as a child, it appeared he was in need of much more than a Big Break.
 
However, the soft spoken 54-year-old earned not only the admiration but the respect of the other contestants by drilling shots and competing with a desire fueled by regularly taking 24-hour Greyhound bus trips and hitch-hiking to mini-tour events. Those bumpy rides led to earning a spot in the 2005 U.S. Senior Open.
 
To the end, Crews demonstrated a faith he regularly expresses as the associate minister at the First Ebenezer Baptist Church in Homer, La. Fellow competitor Laura London (Scottsdale, Ariz.) teamed with him in several episodes and was moved to tears at the result of the playoff. With a hug and the assuring words that helping her through the series might be the reason he was selected for the show, Crews showed why he is a winner still in search of his Big Break he richly deserves.
 
When I get back home they will probably call me into the network studios and the newspaper, said Crews, who aspires to play the Champions Tour. Hopefully I did enough in the show where someone got a real good look at me and I can find a good sponsor.
 
The remaining contestants are still vying for the coveted tournament exemptions and other prizes. The female champion will receive an exemption into the 2007 SBS Open at Turtle Bay and the 2007 Longs Drugs Challenge, as well as waived entry fees for the 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour season. The winning male contestant will receive exemptions into the 2007 Turtle Bay Championship and the 2007 Bank of America Championship, as well as waived entry fees in six events on the 2007 Heartland Players Senior Tour.
 
In addition, winners will receive the finest tools to make the most of their appearances at some of golfs most highly anticipated tournaments. Adams Golf will present the winners with an Adams Golf endorsement contract to keep them on top of their games. Also, NetJets, the worldwide leader in private aviation, will provide five hours of flight time to each winner so they may travel with the ultimate in safety, service and reliability.
 
To keep the champions fueled and energized when they are on the road, the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola will provide the winners with a $1,000 Arch Card to be used at McDonalds restaurants. And finally, as a surprise to the contestants, the male and female champions will be joined by the eliminated contestants to compete for a chance to get into Trumps wallet!
 
The ultimate winner of the match also will become the owner of an all new 2007 Chrysler Aspen - Chryslers first full-sized SUV.
 
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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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.