Battling On Hallowed Ground


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.
Dawn broke on another day in Scotland with the remaining players receiving word that a pair of team buses awaited them outside their hotel. Their destination, however, was unknown.
We were taking separate teams buses to a secret location, which was quite exciting, remarked Guy Woodman of Team Europe.
Ive been in this area quite a few times. We knew the area roughly and knew which side of Scotland we were on, said Warren Bladon as Team Europe tried to figure out where they were headed.
Big Break IV
The U.S. squad had a nice photo op atop the Swilican Bridge, but would the team stay intact throughout episode 6?
Not long after boarding the buses, however, signs along the roadside gave away the secret and the players knew they were in for quite a treat.
Welcome to a very, very special show, it is our privilege to be here. And for the eight of you remaining in this stage of the competition, someday you will tell your children and your grandchildren you competed at the Old Course in St. Andrews, said Vince Cellini, who was on hand along with co-host Stephanie Sparks to welcome the teams. Its absolutely golfs hallowed ground, the birthplace of the sport. By some estimates, golf in some way, shape or form has been played here for upwards of 800 years. Today youll walk in the footsteps of the great champions that have played here.
And with that the Mulligan Challenge got underway as each player was given one attempt to see who could get the ball closest to hole from the infamous Valley of Sin on the 18th hole.
One by one from about 125-feet away, they tried to hit the uphill putt somewhere in the vicinity of the flagstick. After watching several come up well short and a few run past the hole, Europes Marty Wilde Jr. was able to dial in on the speed and keep his attempt somewhat on line. His resulting 8 feet from the hole was ultimately good enough for the victory.
Whenever you win the Mulligan Challenge like that, its a good start for the day and it makes it feel like you are going to win you know? said Wilde Jr. after his teams win.
Now it was on to the Immunity Challenge and the players again visited one of St. Andrews most recognizable spots on the course ' the road bunker just off the 17th green.
Each team was split in two groups with each player playing his own ball from the bunker. The team with the fewest total strokes would be exempt from having to fight it out in the Elimination Challenge.
And once again the Americans got themselves into trouble quickly when T.J. Valentine blasted his ball out of the bunker and over the green, eventually coming to rest on the dirt path that ran along the backside of the green. He did, however, hit a delicate recovery shot that gave him a chance to get down in three.
Theres not one person, not one golf professional in this world ' where that pin was and where his ball was ' that would not take that every single time, concluded U.S. team captain Paul Holtby on Valentines chip shot.
The great recovery shot was made meaningless though, as Valentine could not knock down the putt which left him with a four on the hole. Valentines partner, Tommy Gainey also missed a short putt giving the Americans a total of seven after Rd. 1. Team Europe, missing two makeable putts of their own, both made 3s and held a one stroke lead with the final set of twosomes yet to play.
Europes Wilde Jr. then put even more pressure on the U.S. squad when his bunker shot nestled up to within a couple of feet of the hole, almost assuring himself an easy two. Randall Hunt of the U.S. followed with a lackluster shot out of the bunker but it was his subsequent 30-foot putt which found its mark that suddenly grabbed his teammates attention.
The energy he showed when he made that putt - it just kind of gave us new life, commented the USAs Gainey.
Again, however, the good feeling was short lived as captain Holtby of the U.S. couldnt coax his short putt into the hole giving the Euros yet another Immunity Challenge victory. The loss hurriedly changed the dynamics for Team USA.
I gotta make sure Im safe, said Gainey. I mean, I gotta worry about me. I cant worry about them (teammates) now.
For the Elimination Challenge, the task was simple: play the 18th hole at St. Andrews. High score gets eliminated.
And for Tommy Gainey, it quickly appeared it was going to be his turn to exit the show. After all four Americans found their tee shots safe and in play, Gainey skulled his approach shot and then watched in shock as it took on a life of its own.
After flying over the green, Gaineys ball then flew past the out of bounds markers before skipping off a sidewalk. It then ricocheted off a blue van that was parked outside a clothing store and then somehow miraculously flew back into play, coming to rest in the thick rough just over the green.
If that van wasnt parked in that exact spot, it would have gone over the top of a car and into a shop with huge glass windows and smashed the shop, said a bemused Wilde Jr., who had the luxury of just being a spectator.
Although catching a break when his ball stayed inbounds, Gainey then proceeded to compound his problems as he whiffed his third shot from the rough. Now laying three, he needed a minor miracle to stay alive and he almost got one as his chip shot banged into the flagstick and almost dropped in for a par-4.
Meanwhile, Hunt and Valentine were safely in with pars and captain Holtby looked to have an easy two-putt to seal the deal. From 12 feet away, Holtbys putt for birdie and a pass into the next episode, slid past the hole. Well past the hole. Suddenly, Gainey was brought back into play if Holtby were to miss his par putt.
Paul (Holtby) went from the penthouse to the outhouse real quick, said Hunt on the sudden turn of events.
Sure enough, Holtbys comebacker for par missed right, setting up a one-hole playoff with Gainey.
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Tommy Gainey was the third American to be ousted from the show.
I got this guy right where I want him now. He had a chance to win this thing and he blew it! said Gainey on the momentum change.
Due to a modification in the rules though, Gainey needed to beat Holtby by a stroke on the sudden death hole. Holtbys performance during the Mulligan and Immunity Challenges was better than Gainey, thus he was given a stroke on the final hole to be played for the day.
Long and left off the tee, Gaineys bump and run came up well shy of the flag leaving him with a 35 footer for birdie. Holtby hit his tee shot straight down the middle and about 30-yards in front of the green. His putt from off the green also came up shy of the hole, but he, however, could two putt for the win while Gainey would have to drain his long birdie putt if he wanted to move on.
Gaineys luck finally came to an end when his putt stayed to the right of the hole and Holtby calmly two putted to stave off elimination.
For me not to go on and to be with these boys in the battle ' its going to be hard, said Gainey. But you know, I didnt deserve to win.

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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