Just win, baby?

By Big Break ProducerOctober 31, 2013, 1:00 pm

Just win, baby.

Any football fan of a certain age knows that was the famous mantra of late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.  NFL legends and current Big Break NFL competitors, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice played together for a few years on Davis’ team in the early 2000s.  They even lined up alongside one another for the silver & black in Super Bowl XXXVII (that’s 37, to non-Romans).

They just lost.

Some ten years later, as fate would have it, Brown and Rice have become the first two teams to earn losses in Big Break NFL Puerto Rico, which means from here on in each episode could be their last.  What’s in a mantra?

As Rice and Brown fight to avoid being booted from the opulent Dorado Beach Resort, another player—one who can’t count the Raiders among his three former NFL employers—has grabbed Just win baby by the horns and thrown it to the ground like countless quarterbacks who dared to drop back into his path.

Former defensive end Chris Doleman is developing a reputation for being as mean to his Big Break teammates as he was to opposing offenses.  But take it from someone who was there − things aren’t always as black and white as the Atlanta Falcons jersey Doleman donned in 1994 and ’95.

To be sure, Doleman may not be expecting Christmas cards from fellow blue teamers Brian Cooper and Shannon Fish, and they have earned the nickname “Team Turmoil”.  But, barring something very Big Breakish, their run on the series is now guaranteed to go at least six episodes.  Having interviewed Team Doleman for their entire run on the series, I can tell you there is definitely a kinder, gentler side to the man who once played NFL football with a broken tail bone.

During her interview in episode 3, viewers may have noticed a huge piece of jewelry on Shannon’s right hand.  Yes, everything is bigger in her home state of Texas, but that bling came straight from Pittsburgh, PA.  It was the national championship ring of late Pitt Panthers coach Joe Avezzano, whose son Tony happens to be Shannon’s boyfriend.  He gave it to Shannon to take to Puerto Rico as a good luck charm.

Doleman—who happens to be a University of Pittsburgh alum—has a similar charm, which represents more than a decade of good fortune on the gridiron.  It’s a Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, earned when he was inducted to the prestigious club last year.  It’s a priceless symbol of a career very well spent, and of which Doleman is rightfully proud.  And here’s an exchange that occurred just before our interview the evening of episode 4:

ME: What’s that ring?

CHRIS: Hall of Fame.  (grins)  I’m lonely.

ME: Huh?

CHRIS: There’s only 280 of us.

ME: Aahhh... Nice.

CHRIS: Want to try it on?

I paused.  Heck, I’ll short-arm a NERF if you throw it too hard.  A Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, on my finger?  In my mind, that’s something that has to be earned.  Like the Stanley Cup.  A gold medal.  Or the Claret Jug.  That’s like sitting behind the wheel of your father-in-law’s vintage Jaguar.  You don’t just go around touching things like that without doing something pretty special.

After four seconds of consideration, I realized I’ll probably never be this close to that kind of hardware again.  I took the ring, and slipped it over my fattest finger.  And while it was still about 4 sizes too big, in my wildest dreams it was a perfect fit.

CHRIS: Go ahead and keep it.  Give it back to me tomorrow.

ME (in my head): What time does Positivo close?

ME, out loud (and in my head): That’s quite an offer.  But I do not want to be the guy that loses Chris Doleman’s Hall of Fame ring.  Tell you what, bring it to the interview tomorrow and I’ll just take a picture with it on.

He did.  I took three pictures.

How mean can someone be when he’s willing to let a guy he barely knows hang out with his Hall of Fame ring for a day?  Doleman’s compassion goes beyond hopelessly unathletic TV producers, too.  In January, he traveled to New Orleans during Super Bowl week – to help The Starkey Foundation provide hearing aids to needy residents.  The charity Doleman is playing for strives to make the world better by, among other things, helping at risk youth both at home and abroad.

Of course, what’s ultimately at risk on Big Break NFL Puerto Rico is Shannon’s and Brian’s collective sanity, and a chance to win it all if Team Doleman implodes.  So far, they’re just winning, baby.  Do the ends justify the means?  You may already have an opinion on that.  Is Doleman mad scientist enough to make it work?  Stay tuned.

Other interesting notes from episode 4:

- My personal favorite line from episode 4 was Mark Rypien’s response to his shot at the flop wall, which he admittedly caught a little heavy: “I’ve thrown many touchdown passes that weren’t spirals.  And I loved every one of those.”  (Honesty’s the best policy.)

- James’ holeout over the flop wall is the third such shot in Big Break history.  The others?  Ray Beaufils in Greenbrier, and none other than Will Lowery, whose shot from Indian Wells was replayed in episode 4.

* Watch out in future episodes for another player who had the foresight to bring a specialty club to Puerto Rico, and with much more favorable results.  Keep it here to find out who, and what club.

- Brian’s wedge − the one that sleeps with the fishes − was a 64 degree that he brought along specifically for the flop wall challenge.  You can understand why he doesn’t need it anymore.  In fact, Brian threw it in the pond as a favor to others.  He didn’t want the bad mojo to rub off on anyone else.  Allegedly.

- Emily’s celebration after earning immunity at the flop wall was a reaction to her poor play in the previous episode, and a testament to the intensity of the pressure players face on the series.  When asked about it, almost everyone was fine with that display of emotion.

- Mallory’s Driving Distance Average on the 2010 LPGA Tour was 243.8 yards.  She outdrove Juli Inkster, on average, by one yard.  The drive in episode 4 was into the breeze.

- On the first hole of Sudden Death, Tim’s bunker shot may have looked like the easier of the two for Team Brown.  But as we saw in episode 2, the bunkers on the Dorado Beach East Course can be somewhat unpredictable.  Mallory’s pitch shot was top-shelf.

- Coming into the series, Al Del Greco was widely regarded as the most feared NFL player on the cast.  That could change after this episode.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this blog incorrectly stated that the ring Shannon wore in episode 3 of Big Break NFL Puerto Rico was Chris Doleman’s Hall of Fame ring.  The writer apologizes for the inaccuracy.

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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

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

Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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

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

By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.

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Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 24, 2018, 8:35 pm

Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.

The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.

“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.

He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.

The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.