Disappointed, But Grateful

By Big BreakNovember 29, 2012, 7:30 pm

First and foremost, I must thank Big Break, Golf Channel, NBC, The Greenbrier and everyone who had a hand in making the greatest golfing experience of my life a reality. One can only dream of being given such an opportunity and for that, I am forever indebted. To Paul Schlegel, Jay Kossoff and TJ Hubbard, you are all gifts to me and forever a part of my extended family.

Second, I must congratulate James Lepp on a well-played match. You played great and you deserved to advance. I wish you continued success my friend. I feel honored to have met you and forged the friendship that we have.

Ok, onto what people want to hear, my thoughts on what turned out to be my last show on Big Break Greenbrier. Just like any morning, there were nerves about the upcoming day. Today was no different, but I made sure to focus on what was most important, I was still here and I had a chance to continue this journey. When the time came I reminded myself to play each immunity challenge to the best of my ability and let the chips fall where they may.

The first immunity challenge brought memories of playing basketball horse as a kid with the Bendel boys, just this one was called ‘Break’ for obvious reasons. I liked how the challenge was going to play out. Best shot would not be awarded a letter and that same player could assign a letter. I wasn't too thrilled about that part because it was like calling out other players, which wasn't what I thought the challenge should be about. Maybe the worst shot should have just been awarded an extra letter, but you know Big Break. It was already a tough enough challenge considering you had no idea where players would pick shots. Most immunity challenges are spelled out, this one was anything but.

When Mark picked the bunker shot with the first shot, I was happy because I would consider myself a very good bunker player. Turns out that my feelings were correct and I won location one, but that's where the fun ended. I picked James for no rhyme or reason to assign a letter to. I was second to choose a location and looking at this hole, there were so many fun locations. I chose a 'trouble' semi-blind shot over a huge mound. I thought it would make guys think more than just execute the shot. I was pretty happy about my shot and thought it really had a great chance to stand up. Wrong! James won and there was no surprise who would get the extra letter. Touché. This is where the challenge, in my opinion, got very bland. The third location was played from around the 130-yard area. I wasn't thrilled with this number because it's a 'tweener' for me. I wasn't carrying a gap wedge so it was either a very hard sand wedge or taking a little off a pitching wedge.  The sand wedge was the right play, but it brought so many variables into play for me.  The main variable was I had to hit it very hard and perfect to carry that distance. Going to pitching wedge was tough because, although it was plenty of club, there would be very little spin.  With already very firm greens, getting close was going to be pretty tough. This shot didn't turn out well for me in the standings.  I was really disappointed because there was the opportunity to use so much imagination here. Regardless of how it turned out for me, I was eventually eliminated when Isaac gave me my last letter, but afterwards he paid me a great compliment. He simply said, 'I gave you the last letter because you're probably the best wedge player.'  Thanks Squatch.

Going into the second part of immunity, we found out it was going to be another driver test. And anyone who watched the last show knows that I struggled with my driver. Why? I now know, but had no idea then and then was when it mattered. Four guys remained and it was a mano-a-mano match. I drew James and Mark vs. Isaac. Mark beat Isaac and really made it look easy. James and I were a different story. I finally turned a drive over but let's be honest, it was more of a toe hook than my natural draw. Regardless, I was in the trees, albeit with a shot, but James was perfect in the middle of the fairway. James chose to hit his shot, which I would have done as well.  When he missed the green, I was shocked. It was now Mark and I playing for safe city and the final four. I knew I had to hit a good drive because Mark had been playing great from day one. I even considered clubbing down to a 3-wood, but in the end I had faith in my swing and knew I could hit a good drive. I didn't hit it great but didn't hit it poorly and it hit in the bunker, popped out and landed in the rough, inches away from the fairway. Those few inches are what Big Break is all about. When Mark hooked his ball way left, I knew that missing the fairway was a big opportunity lost. On the redo I basically hit the same hanging right shot.  When Mark hit a great drive, I knew the elimination challenge was my next destination. Well done Mark, congrats.

Heading into to elimination versus James, I felt confident and maybe even more so since neither of us had performed very well today. On our first hole, my thoughts were simple, play smart and as aggressive as I could. I didn't hit a great tee shot on the first elimination hole. I think I was too pumped.  I wanted to hit too good of a shot, and pulled it into the left fairway bunker. James hit a good fairway wood shot into the right side of the fairway and followed that up with a shot that landed on the green.  Not very close, but the message was received. The bunker yardage I had was a great one for a fairway shot, 119 yards.  However, it was a little awkward for a bunker shot. I usually like to usually add a half club from fairway bunkers, and this shot wasn't one that I was comfortable doing so with. I chose a hard sand wedge and just caught a little thin.  It sailed to the back and then over. I wasn't frazzled and actually thought I played a pretty good chip shot to give myself a chance to save par. When I didn't, I knew I had to make something happen with only two holes remaining. We both hit decent shots into the par-3, but when James dropped that bomb, I couldn't do anything but smile and laugh inside. It was a great putt. I still had a chance to keep the distance to only one stroke and when my putt slid by the left, I have to admit I was deflated. However, I knew that anything could happen on the par five last hole. After my drive hit the fairway bunker, I knew my work was cut out for me, but there is no quit in this guy from Pittsburgh. I said screw it, let's do a 3-wood. I didn't hit it great or crisp but it managed from some bounces to get pin high left in the rough. There was nothing left to do but hole it.  I had to.  I tried very hard, but it just slid by. When James finally made his final putt, my time at Big Break Greenbrier was over.

I don't think you realize what a gift your given until it's time to have that last talk.  Anyone who knows the 'emotional' side of me, knew that I would not hold back my emotion and would let my feelings be known. What a truly amazing experience. I have been so blessed to have been a part of this and will treasure every memory made here for the rest of my life. You know, I'm disappointed that I didn't win, but I left Big Break Greenbrier a better player, a better person and with new found friendships that I will hold dear to my heart for a lifetime.

I wouldn't be here today without the continued support from my Mom, you are the best and I can't wait for you to meet your grandson. My brothers, thanks for your unwavering support, especially Dana, who I've looked up to since I was a baby although he's never known it. With Dad no longer here, you've become my hero. My in laws, the Almquist family (David included), you've all been a blessing and thank you for everything. To my best friend Bill 'rip', you know me like no other and you are truly my brother from a different mother of another color. I love you bro. And lastly, to Bruce Lange, I think you know how I feel about you and all the privileges that you've afforded me at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. Kipp Bates and the staff and Kierland Gold Club, my love, respect and appreciation for how you make me feel is unquestioned, thank you. Jason Boyd Williams, Aarik Greenley and Jake Puglielli at Adams Golf, thank you for your support. Cairo Salvatierra  at TaylorMade Adidas, your help and support are more than appreciated.

I would be remiss if I didn't say that although winning would have been amazing, I've had a pretty amazing and blessed year. I married the greatest gift ever given to me this past December, my best friend and wife Shelley. I was selected to be on Big Break Greenbrier in May and the greatest gift of them all, my wife Shelley and I are expecting our first born, a son, on April 23, 2013. So, to win would have been something to write a book about, but you know what, who needs a book when you have the best that life can offer already.

Thanks for watching,

Brian Cooper

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.