$50K or Exemption?

By Big Break ProducerOctober 3, 2012, 2:00 pm

I’m in the business of making golfer’s dreams come true.  That statement may sound a little profound but I believe it to be the truth. I (along with many talented people) produce a series that help struggling professional golfers realize their dream of playing on the PGA TOUR.  That’s our sales pitch to the over 3,400 people that tried out for this show. And for the 12 guys we selected, their dream is exactly what is on the line– a spot in the field to tee it up with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and many other world class players. That and $50K… not to mention a whole assortment of other great prizes.

With that said, I think it’s safe to say my statement holds water. We are in the business of making golfer’s dreams come true.

The reason I bring up the prize package and the PGA TOUR exemption is because I wanted to give you insight as to what our cast valued more.  When asked the question (ask yourself as well):

If you could have only ONE of the following what would you take?

            $50,000 or a PGA TOUR exemption?

The cast of Greenbrier overwhelmingly replied EXEMPTION!  I thought maybe one or two guys might have said the cash but all 12 went with the exemption.  Their reasoning: the possibilities of a spot in the field on the PGA Tour can be endless for guys like them.  So when the players are talking about pressure, the nature of Big Break and how ‘under-the-gun’ they feel from their 1st shot to their last, that’s what they’re thinking about… they’re thinking about being so close to their dream they can taste it and they don’t want to screw it up.

That’s what Big Break is all about to our cast and how it mirrors my sentiment towards a series I love so much. 

Onto the show.

Glass Break

This was a very cool challenge that took over a month to finalize.  In the end, it came out like we hoped.  We wanted to know which players were the gamblers (Isaac, Rick, Liam, James, Brian), which players were the cerebral-thinking types (Chan, Mike, Mark) and the ones who flew by the seat of their pants (Anthony, Derek, Stuart, Ray).

This challenge was tough for the competitors not only from a golfing stand-point but from a mental standpoint which is the goal for any Big Break challenge. Quick facts/Comments: Ray Beaufils goes down as the 1st player in Big Break history to attempt a throw while in competition during the glass break.

James’ breaking of the glass may be the fastest ever in Big Break history… it was certainly the most impressive 1st shot I’ve seen on Big Break.  25 yards away, 1 shot – break – thanks for coming.  Not bad for guy who has stepped away from 2 years ago to start his own shoe company.

Liam and Rick both broke their panes at the exact same time…down to the hundredth. When we went to record Liam’s time, we were as surprised as he was… if not more.

Anthony “that’s how you break glass” Casalino! His new son will be quite proud of Dad when he greets the world sometime in December.


We did something very similar to this challenge at Big Break Disney but I much prefer this format.  I liked that each guy got 2 shots; I loved the choice element where the players chose their distances and I was NOT surprised that 310 was the lowest ‘SAFE’ score.  Kudos to Mike for employing a very ballsy strategy.  As a former college basketball player and career 75% free throw shooter, Mike’s thinking when he saw the challenge – it’s a free throw contest – hit the same 2 shots, move on.

Isaac is the biggest gambler on the cast and ALWAYS tries to win a challenge.  2nd place (to quote one of Rick Cochran’s favorite Will Ferrell characters) is never good enough: “if you’re not 1st, you’re last.”

Mark’s combined distance on his two shots (proximity to the hole from 154/195 yards) was 18 feet 10 inches. That’s pretty good considering his 1st shot measured a little less than 15 feet.

Derek chose two distances he felt were perfect for him.  Standing next to him, he hit the center of the clubface on both shots.  But he forgot to factor in the adrenaline factor and it cost him.  Normal 9 iron for Derek = 154 (show 1 distance: 173 yards).  Normal 6 iron for Derek = 188 (show 1 distance: 201 yards).


I was completely shocked by Derek’s pick of Isaac.  On the range the entire cast was saying he HAS to choose Stu.  They were commenting that Stu had missed both shots in the approach challenge worse than Isaac and Derek’s length, especially on a par-five, favors D-Boh (as he’s known on the mini-tours).  MAKE NO MISTAKE, Stu can golf his ball and was absolutely killing it on the range.  He remains an enigma to the cast and even for us producers.  On any given challenge, no one knows which Stu will show up… I have to believe Derek will always wonder if he made the right decision.

Getty Images

Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

Getty Images

Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

Getty Images

Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

Getty Images

Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

So much for that.

Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

What’s the difference now?

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”