Big Break Invit'l a win for Woodson, entire BB family

By Bailey MosierOctober 3, 2014, 9:57 pm

LAKE OCONEE, Ga. – Technically, yes, there was only one winner on Friday at the inaugural Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation, and that man was Jay Woodson.

But beyond him, the week was a win for all 40 players who teed it up at the Great Waters Course. Not because they all received consolation ribbons or participation certificates. Not because the 12 finalists that made it to Friday's final round won money. Not because the competitors and their families spent the week at the Reynolds Plantation Ritz. Those are all victories, but this week was about something bigger than one win, something bigger than one week.

To be clear, the $100K first-place prize awarded to Woodson is big. So big, in fact, it's the largest check he'll cash thus far in his professional career. At 32, Woodson has Monday qualified into one PGA Tour event (2008 Wyndham Championship) and six Tour events. Beyond that, he's spent time competing on the NGA Tour, EGolf Tour and the Pepsi Tour. This season, he finished fourth on the NGA Tour money list, having earned $34,752. Don't forget about the $850 he made this year in the Carolina Summer Series.

While Woodson certainly cashed in this week, the money isn't what this win is about.

"When I started playing golf as a little kid, I never played because I wanted to make a lot of money," Woodson said. "But, you need to make money to keep playing, so this is huge and it allows us to keep going and keep pursuing our dream. I definitely think I’m capable of [making it on the PGA Tour], so this just gives us a better opportunity.”

Opportunity ... and a chance to pay some off some debt, his wife Erin joked. 

"Pay some bills, that kind of pops in our head," Erin said. "We have a one-year-old son, so just make sure he’s taken care of. It’s probably already spent, but it’ll go to good use."

It was a coincidence that Erin was even here for the biggest payday of her husband's professional career. Her in-laws and parents pitched in to buy her a last-minute ticket from Richmond, Va., where the Woodsons reside, to Georgia on Thursday to make it just in time to watch Jay - the No. 11 seed - in his match against No. 2 seed Mark Murphy.

“He made the cut on the number, and something inside of me just said, ‘That’s where you need to be,'" Erin said. '"You need to be there to support him, no matter if he does well, or if he does bad, just moral support.' So, thank goodness I came, right?"

It was a coincidence Erin was with Jay in the winner's circle on Friday, but it was no coincidence Jay was there after a posting a bogey-free 4-under 68.

"I played with Jay on the back nine, and he made some of the most incredible up-and-downs I've ever seen," Mallory Blackwelder (T-5) said. "I was very happy for him. He's a great guy, super nice to play with."

Perhaps the greatest up-and-down of the day came at the last. Three under heading to the par-5 18th and in the second-to-last group, Woodson knocked his second shot over the green and into a greenside bunker. He hit a near-perfect bunker shot that barely cleared the lip of the bunker, landed on the fringe, and nestled to 6 feet. He drained that for birdie to finish 4 under.

"It was severely downhill and I had a downhill lie in the bunker," Woodson said, "not to mention there was water on the other side [of the green]. ... I probably had a 2-foot circle I could land the ball on to get to where it did. I hit a great shot, but I got lucky, too."

Lucky to win, perhaps, even luckier he was able to share this moment with family. With the people who care about him the most - his fellow "Big Break" competitors.

Sixteen Big Breakers - a combination of the 11 who played Friday and five others who stuck around all week - gathered on the 18th green Friday night to congratulate Woodson. And it wasn't just posing for the cameras. They were truly elated for him. 

"Everybody was really happy for him," Blackwelder said. "He's a great guy. ... If I couldn't win, I was happy to see him do it."

Justin Peters, the winner of the first "Big Break," knows a thing or two about Woodson's character, and his assessment is all postive.

"I've known Jay for seven or eight years," Peters said, "and we've been talking about patience all week and making putts. We were both the last two seeds (in match play). I was No. 12 and he was No. 11. We were supposed to both take down the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. He did his job, I didn't. He finished it off and it was pretty awesome to share that moment with him on the 18th green."

"He is the sweetest, nicest guy in the world," Mary Narzisi said, "and we were just talking about it. Not many people can be upset with Jay winning this. As a competitor, you always want to be like, 'I wish that was me.' But this could not have happened to a better guy."

No better guy and no better way to head into Q-School - with momentum and validation. Woodson heads to first stage of Q-School next week in Atlanta. Bigger and better things on the horizon for Woodson, and for all the Big Breakers after a feel-good week at Reynolds Plantation.

“I think the week was phenomenal, Woodson said. "This is such an awesome tournament. The course was absolutely perfect. All of the volunteers and everyone at Reynolds Plantation and MetLife have been phenomenal. I would play in this event every year if they let me.”

Good news, Jay: You're a lock for 2015. The better news? You're a member of the Big Break family for life.

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Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

Who’s the best at their best?

In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

And he’s far from done.

“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

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Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka