An Experience of a Lifetime

By Big Break ProducerOctober 24, 2012, 12:00 pm

When you walk around the Greenbrier you can’t help but notice all the history.  After all, the hotel itself is over 200 years old and the property has been seeing visitors for nearly 230 years.  The same goes for the golf course.  In 1979 the Ryder Cup was played at the Greenbrier but it was a man by the name of Samuel Jackson Snead that made this golf course worthy of hosting such a prestigious event.

When Sam Snead called the Greenbrier home, it had two elite golf courses, Old White TPC and the Greenbrier course.  On this particular show, we played on their member’s only course apply named the Snead Course.  It was a course designed by Tom Fazio and dedicated to the Slammer when it was completed in 2005. The greens on this course would make any golfer cringe and weep based on their undulations and speed.  The player’s seemingly handled them pretty well.

It was an incredible honor to meet the son of a legend – someone who had a front row seat to golfing history.  When Sam Snead, Jr. came on set you definitely could see and feel a change in the players’.  Each of them recalled the meeting the best experience of their Big Break trip.  Here is a quick bio sheet on the great Samuel Jackson Snead:

• 82 PGA Tour wins
• 7 career major victories (only the US Open eluded him – finished 2nd four times)
• 135 ‘unofficial’ PROFESSIONAL wins (many experts believe Sam deserves to have over 90 PGA Tour wins)
• Only man to win LGPA (unofficial event – funny story as Jason Sobel writes)
• Oldest player to make cut at US Open (61 years old – ’73 at Oakmont, same event Johnny Miller won by shooting a final round 63)
• Had 3-consecutive top-ten finishes at the PGA Championship from 1972-1974 at the ages of 60, 61 and 62.
• Had 10 rounds of 59, including several three-putts on the 18th hole at Old White TPC to shoot 60.
• Was said to have made a hole-in-one with EVERY club in the bag (except putter) 7 career hole in ones on the 18th hole at Old White TPC (famous finishing hole)
• 16-time winner of the West Virginia Open
• Could shoot his age well into his 60’s – including 66 in a PGA Tour event

Sam Snead was quoted once as recalled by’s own Mercer Baggs in this article, “If it’s recognition that you want for your generosity, then it’s not charity.” When I read that quote, I thought of how generous it was for Sam Jr. to accept Big Break’s offer to come and meet with the cast at 6:45 in the morning (which included a 45-minute drive for Jack- as he’s known).  Rick called this the coolest thing he’d done on Big Break so far – Mark (ever the historian) kept asking questions while the guys sat around with Sam after the on-camera meeting was finished.  Although Sam Jr. had other appointments that day, he stuck around as long as he could sharing in “Dad’s” legacy.  Here are few stories that didn’t make air.

In 1961, when Sam shot that amazing combined score of 122 for two rounds (still a record) he received a telegram from Queen Elizabeth congratulating him and he received a phone call from President Kennedy. Anytime you can go that low, I guess it would be fitting for two of the most famous world leaders to call you up and say, “JOB-WELL DONE!”

Despite Sam’s unique ability to hit golf balls with incredible precision and after a lifetime of honing that craft on the practice range, Sam Jr. said his father’s hands were as soft as a baby’s bottom.  Sam kept his fitness and strength in such incredible shape by chopping wood.  In fact, until the day Sam died, he could still put the back’s of his hand flat on the ground by simply bending from the waist.  There were a few other stories (none of which can be told here) that will simply have to for the ear’s of my Saturday foursome.

Chan’s antics in this show really upset Brian and it was something that Brian talked about with Chan at dinner that night.  Brian is a guy that is all about respect and appreciation.  While he appreciated Chan’s excellent play that lead to an easy day for the 44-year old touring pro… the over celebration was TOO much for Coop.  Look for this storyline to continue in next week’s episode.

Anthony DOES NOT believe in himself at all… and it’s something to notice going forward.  He’s a very good player that steps up in big situations… unfortunately today he got by with a little help from his friends and a Mike missed putt.

Mike’s putt measured about 2 feet, 9 inches. And before you label Mike anything along the lines of a CHOKER… I want you (for the next 4 rounds of golf… don’t cheat) to putt EVERYTHING out.  No gimmees, no ‘inside the leather’, no ‘I’ve got to hurry, the group behind is catching up’ and certainly no ‘That’s good’.  Count how many ‘two footers’ you miss.  After those 4 rounds, email me ( or post it on Facebook… how many you made out of how many you missed.  If you are at 100%, I will arrange for you to chat with me and Mike and you can call him all the words you’d like… until then, please lay off the harsh words… after all the guy’s heart was just broken all over again having to relive it the week he’s going to 1st stage of Qualifying school.

Mike Tobiason’s resume speaks for itself.  He had 23 collegiate victories, has 5 professional victories on assorted mini-tours and a missed cut at the US Open by 3 shots. This guy will play on the PGA Tour – my words have been marked.  In fact, Michael Breed called Mike the best ball striker out of all the cast members. 

Quick recap about James’ saucer pass / chipping style.  James Lepp uses this technique because he HAS to… not because he wants to look cool on TV. James only uses this chipping style on the fairway, fringe and only a few times in very light rough. Dating back to college James always had an issue with chipping the golf ball.  Being a pretty decent hockey player James was competing in a heated chipping contest with Brendan Steele (PGA Tour winner) while they were both on the Canadian Tour in 2007… here ‘s how the chipping style emerged as told to our interview producer Bobby Lataille by James in his interview:

The saucer pass originated a few years ago. Brendan Steele and I we were goofing off after a Monday qualifier on the Tour. We both missed the cut to it make the tournament and what started as a simple chipping competition and eventually escalated where we’re trying to find crazier shots where we are getting up against trees and ball washers and seeing how far we can actually hit a ball with no back swing. We both have a hockey background (He’s a Kings fan and played a little growing up / I’m a Canucks fan and I’ve played hockey for a long time) and were doing these snap shots wrist shots and ended up being kind of like this little slide of the club into the ball to try to hit it far off of a pretty tight lie and I remember hitting it and hitting a good shot and I was like man that felt great. Then we go back to the fringe and we’re like maybe there is a system for this. You take it back six inches slide it through the ball to see how far does it go and we’re like it goes the same distance every time. (30 feet is about seven inches, 35 feet was like eight inches), so there is a mathematical explanation for this and it was so simple for me. I started kind of playing with it a little bit more and I was like this is ridiculously efficient, this works!  I’ve always had a little bit of trouble chipping off of tight lies and the saucer pass is perfect for that tight lie. You've got to be so precise if you’re going to chip it normally because you only have so much room for error. In the rough the ball could be sitting up and you could hit four inches behind it but the rough gives you that room for error to chip it normally but on the fairway you hit four inches behind you have a chance of chunking it and then you might react knowing that you could chunk that and then you skull it, so the saucer pass you have this much room for error.

Ray Beaufils hit one of the prettiest shots I’ve ever seen up close in all my golfing life.  His 4-iron from 234 yards from the fairway bunker was insanely good.  Under the circumstances he was looking at his opponent Mike with an easy chance to hit the green in two – Ray chose to go for the glory shot.  The lip on that bunker would make most grown men cry… for Ray, he laughed at it and skied a 4-iron that was in the air for 8 seconds.  Normally when I see a ball travel that high, that quickly it goes no-where but he flew it 218 yards… uphill… into the wind.  Quite tasty!

Another great day of golf… great play from the majority of the cast and another elimination where birdie decides who stays and who is eliminated. 

See you next week!

TJ Hubbard

Getty Images

Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

Getty Images

Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

@kharms27 on Instagram

Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

Getty Images

McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.