The Real Brian Cooper

By Big BreakNovember 2, 2012, 8:00 pm

Where to begin with Episode 5. Just like any other morning, it started out very early, foggy and did I say it was early? Breakfast was just as good as the day before as Golf Channel made it a point to make sure that we were more than taken care of. Breakfast was great, just a little more quiet.  I’m not sure if that is because we were losing people by the show or if tensions were just getting that much higher. I think it was more the pressure.
Once on the course, loosening up and hitting balls, we found out that we were finally getting to one of the hallmark shots of Big Break – 'The Flop Wall'. Once we made it out to the course and actually saw the wall, TV does not do the wall justice. It's more than just the fact that the wall is 9 feet, you can't see your target behind the wall, so the illusion of the wall seems even bigger.
The rules of the challenge were simple.  Three flop shots from three different distances; 9 feet, 6 feet and 3 feet. No excuses from me, but something just didn't feel right to me – both in my head and with my golf swing – but I'm a gamer and I had to make this work. The flop shot to me is a fairly easy shot. I play it well and feel very comfortable with the shot. My first shot was less than desirable, but I just couldn't imagine using my mulligan so early. In a regular event, that putt is makeable, but we're not putting, so screw that thought pattern. Only one player hit a short worse than mine, Rick. So, we had some distance to make up. Ray, Mark and Anthony hit really good shots with Ray actually holing out his mulligan shot. With my second attempt, I didn't really do much better and knew at this point that there was no chance that I would advance through this challenge, so it was time for me to get my head right for the second challenge, because I was going to need it. It was now just a matter of who was going to be safe and who would be joining me at the second location. After the third and hardest chip – it was my best shot I might add – and the best shot of the final location was 2 feet. Mark and Issac were safe and they deserved it.
The second Immunity Challenge consisted of three locations. A greenside chip that had to be within 5 feet, a shot from about 140 yards that had to be within 12 feet and then the toughest of the shots – a side hill shot from about 180 yards that had to be within 25ft. I really needed to redeem myself, but again, I was struggling mentally and had to battle through.  James was the head of the class at location one with the saucer pass.  There was a mixture of success for the guys, but I really stunk it up.  As the show indicated, I was very frustrated.  Many people think my frustration was directed at Anthony, but in fact it was more directed at my inability to handle shots that I've handled in my sleep. Anthony just happened to show sympathy at the wrong time. Unlike some people, I made it a point to apologize to Anthony very quickly, it just was not caught on TV. So, I was in last place and staring the Elimination Challenge dead in the face. On to location two.  The guys really struggled. By the time it got to me, I had the chance to make a huge move with one swing of the club and that is what I did. I painted the flag and moved into solo third and on the advancement line to move onto the next show. One location left and my horrible day could be forgotten. If you think the guys struggled at location two, location three was even worse.  No one did anything worth mentioning and when I had my fate in my own hands, I threw up all over them and paved my way to the Elimination round. All that was left was who was going with me and who was I picking.
It came down to me having to choose between Rick and Ray. Ray, being my roommate while on the show was a tough pick for sentimental reasons but reason and feelings had to be thrown out the window. I had to pick whom I thought I matched up better with or whom I thought was playing just as poorly as me. There were lots of rumblings from the other guys during play and at lunch about who was struggling and what not. The consensus, although not asked for was that Ray was maybe not on top of his game, but I knew Rick wasn't either. I saw the shots, I just had to weigh pros and cons. When it was all settled, the main factor in my decision was I just didn't know enough about Rick's game to pick him. So, I picked my roommate. Not an easy pick, because he and I both wanted to make the final duel together.
The elimination was simple. It took place on the 14th hole on the Snead Course and played out from three locations, playing the hole twice. The first location was from 180 yards and I was first to play. It wasn't about pin seeking, it was more about hitting a good shot and making Ray match it. I thought I hit a shot better than the one I hit, but was pleased with the outcome, under the pin about 15 feet away. I knew I could make this putt. Ray followed me with a good shot of his own and would putt first. When he missed, I felt a surge for the first time today, because I was finally in charge. Something that I did not feel all day. However, I missed my putt, even though it was tracking the whole way. Just a lack of pace.
Back to the tee and I chose driver, even though I had been struggling with the driver since I arrived. Before I hit my tee shot – I think it was simple to see that I was not hitting the driver well – I was thinking, “try to apply pressure.” Unfortunately, due the horrendous tee shot, I gave Ray relief because I was in two feet of high hay with pretty much a prayer. He hit the fairway and then hit a good wedge to about 15 feet. Then it was my turn. Not a great lie, two foot high fescue and existence on the show at stake. What happened next was probably the best shot I've ever hit under the circumstances in my life. Not only did I get it out of the hay, but managed to get it on the green at pretty much the same location as my first putt. Ray putted first and when his putt peeked at the hole but slid by, I again had the chance to close this out. I think I hit the exact same putt, same pace, same result, about two rolls of pace short from the heart.
Back to the tee.  Ray, sticking to his iron play, hit another good tee shot in almost the same position. Me on the other hand, I stuck with driver even after that awful tee shot. I didn't hit it much better, but this was in play and I had an okay look at the pin. Ray played first and hit a really good shot but it spun off the green. Again, I felt a surge knowing that if I could get a good shot, I would have the advantage. Seeing Ray's shot spin pretty severely from right of the pin, I thought that I had a great angle and the possibility of getting it close. I could not have played it any better with 10 balls. I hit it on the right edge of the green and it caught the slope and rolled to about six feet. When Ray missed his putt, it was my time. I had to take some time to collect myself – so many thoughts were racing through my head. When that putt went in, all of the bad shots of the day were forgotten, and I felt this surge of emotion rush through me. All that kept going through my head was, I wish my Dad were here to see this and the moment took over.
I think by the looks of the show, I'm made out to be the hot head, but in reality, those who know me know I am something different. I didn't grow up a golfer, I grew up playing contact sports, so being physical and showing emotion is what I know. I'm an emotional golfer. I expect a lot out of myself and when I don't perform to my standards, I show that emotion. I don't do it to be 'that' guy or to disrespect my family, friends, fans, the game of golf, sponsors and most importantly, myself. I'd like to think that those who saw the end of the show and my interview see the other side of me, the side that is a family man, who holds everyone accountable, who respects the game and one who shows just how much this opportunity and the game of golf means to me. It means so much to me, it sometimes hurts me to my core.
Take the time learn about the real Brian Cooper, I think you'd like him. He sure likes and appreciates you for tuning in to Big Break Greenbrier.


Brian Cooper

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

Getty Images

5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

Getty Images

Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”