Justin Payne's Final Words

By May 31, 2011, 5:03 pm

My experience on Big Break Indian Wells is something I will never forget!  I had almost given up on playing professional golf after battling through a couple of injuries last year that completely took me out of golf…that is until I got the call that I was going to be on the show.  It was a once in a lifetime experience for a small town guy from Texas.  Almost immediately I became good friends with Russell, Piri and Will. As the show progressed, I also became friends with just about everyone else on there, except of course Kent.  When you get two guys together who think and know inside that they are probably the two best all-around players of the group, then you can't really expect them to get along in competition. I may have come across to some of the competitors and viewers as cocky and arrogant, but it is just my competitive nature. I am actually a really nice guy; I just HATE to lose!! 

I was pretty excited when we drove up and saw the Glass-Breaking Challenge. It should have been my cup of tea because of where I grew up.  Playing in the winds of west Texas you learn to control the trajectory of your ball really well, otherwise the 30 or 40 mph winds will take your ball to places you don't want to go.  This challenge actually took a lot more shots than what was shown on the show because it was so difficult.  What wasn't shown was before Kent took out Will and I on his last two shots, I had a chance to take him out and be the hero for our team. My shot missed his plate of glass by no more than a half an inch right below it almost hitting the post that was holding it up.  After I missed, I had a feeling that we weren't going to get another shot because of the rhythm that Kent had going, and I was right. 

The second challenge was against our own team, hitting it inside the circles for points and the top two earned immunity.  I have no regrets about this challenge because I hit every shot just how I wanted; they just didn't turn out.  And that is golf.  The first two from 130 yards in the fairway should have been fairly easy to get inside at least the two-point circle.  I thought the first shot I hit was going to be really close based on the yardage and the wind.  It was right on the flag, and when it came down I didn't see it until after it bounced- - it was on such a good line the pin blocked the view of it.  The second shot I toned it down a little and tried to use the slope on the right side of the green to bring it back down to the 3-point circle.  That backfired because I hit it about two yards too far and it didn't land into the slope.  Both of my shots I hit just a stock pitching wedge expecting the ball to spin back a little like it always does.  Well you know how that turned out, no more than a foot outside the 2-point circle.  That put me in a real bind going to the next shots because I was in a big hole.  All I was thinking about was the 3-point circle.  The first shot I hit exactly how I wanted. Coming out of the rough you don't expect the ball to spin at all. I figured if I landed it around the 2-point line that it would release on up to the 3-point circle and I would be right back in it. Boy, was I wrong. It actually hit the chalk line and came ripping back like I had hit it out of the fairway.  So that meant that I was going to the Elimination Challenge.   

If you watched the show then you probably saw Kent butt-in when I was talking to Russell about my shot that hit the chalk line.  'You just got beat, You just got beat.', were his words.  That actually came from Russ and I talking about the difference between the points of the two groups and that if I had been in the other group I would have been in a playoff with those two.  What wasn't shown was the conflict between Kent and I where he butted into mine and Russell's conversation.  If it hadn't been for Russell keeping me calm, something would have happened because I don't put up with rude and un-classy people attacking me personally and making a mockery of me when all I was doing was explaining to Russell what happened on my shot, because where Safe City was, you couldn't see the green.    

In the Elimination Challenge, it was me and Shanks.  We had five stations: putting, chipping, waste bunker, fairway and the entire hole.  I was confident in my ability to win heads-up, but when he chose to buy the extra half a point to be up one whole point, it was going to be a difficult task to overcome, to say the least!! Especially when I found out it was only a race to three points, not the best out of the five.  We halved the first station because I hit an awful putt and left it two feet short, in the dead center of the hole.  I couldn't afford any mistakes already being a full point behind and I just made one.  Luckily, he didn't make his so we halved the first station.  The next station was a chip.  My short game is what I usually pride myself on, being able to get the ball up and down from just about anywhere.  In my mind I needed to make it to put some pressure on him because all he had to do was tie me for the next three and he wins.  I hit a good shot to about a foot and a half where I shouldn't have, to worry about the putt.  After Shank made his five-footer I just stepped up there like I always do to tap it in.  I had let my mind wonder onto the next shot out of the waste bunker and not on the shot at hand and it cost me, BIG TIME!!  I just pulled it.  Now the pressure was really mounting square on my shoulders.  Shank hit a great shot out of the waste area to about ten feet.  I wasn't completely dead yet because I have seen people 3 putt from much less than that, but I wasn't counting on it.  I hit what I thought was a good shot, right at the hole. My distance control out of that stuff just wasn't there.  It ended up almost exactly where we had just chipped from.  I tried to make the next shot because that was the only chance that I really had.  It wasn't shown in the episode, but I made my four-footer to force Shank to 2 putt for the win, which he did.  I felt like I beat myself because I missed that little short putt, and was more upset with myself and being down a full point than anything else.  There were some comments made about me not being a good sport for losing, and needing to work on my people skills, but I shook his hand like a man and told him good job. And I lost. I hate to lose.  I am not going to be all smiles and cheery after I lose at anything to someone, especially when I felt like I beat myself!  And if people think that I have character flaws because I don't watch others when I am playing, then they can just think that. But I have never watched others hit or putt or anything else during competition. I focus on my game and if that is a character flaw then it is, but that is just the way I am.  I don't have any regrets about the shots or any of my actions on the show, except for one, and you have to know me personally to find that out.   

As for what I am doing after the show, it is really up in the air.  Being on Big Break has rekindled the fire underneath me to try to pursue a career playing golf because it has brought into focus just how good I can really be and how good I want to be; I just need to catch my break to get there.  I showed sparks of the old Justin in a couple of shots, but it is hard to calm your nerves when you have been out of competitive golf for almost two years.  I am currently playing in Monday qualifiers for PGA and Nationwide events and thinking about moving to Florida to try to pursue my dream.  It is almost within my grasp. I just need my Big Break!  I thought this might be it, but I didn't perform the way I would have liked.  Who knows, maybe I will make it through a Monday Qualifier and you will see me playing in a PGA event this year.  Based on what all the guys told me on the show and PGA pros that I play with in Dallas, I more than have the ability and game, and I was one of the best players there, but it wasn't meant to be.  I have made some lifelong friends through this experience and would like to thank Golf Channel and the producers for giving me the opportunity to be on the show!  Our lives are already planned out for us, so you never know what the next curve in the road is going to bring!!  Best of luck to everyone!!

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Farewell to the mouth that roared

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.