Magic Tricks in Michigan

By November 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
The Big BreakEditor's Note: The Golf Channel aired the eighth episode of its original series, The Big Break, Tuesday in which a group of scratch golfers vie in a weekly showdown of golf skills challenges. Each week one contestant will be eliminated until there is just one man left standing. That lucky winner will get the Big Break of his golfing career - exemptions into four Canadian Tour events airing on The Golf Channel in 2004.
 
As Mother Nature reared her ugly head at the Treetops Resort in northern Michigan, the players were left in the clubhouse, killing time with some light stretching, small talk and a couple of card tricks.
 
Here we go again, spoke Justin Peters about the harsh weather the players had to deal with. Its just going to be another one of those absolute mental challenges.
 
With the field down to the final four contestants, a match-play style challenge, nasty weather and the mounting pressure all set the stage to see who would ultimately have to pull off a little magic of their own to stave off elimination.
 
As the contestants huddled under umbrellas waiting for instructions for the days first challenge, co-host Rick Smith pulled up with some good news on an otherwise dreary day. The Ford Motor Company was offering the use of a new Ford Explorer for two years to the player that would eventually win the Big Break.
 
That was a shock because none of us even expected that, quipped Peters. It just raises the bar, the pot has been sweetened!
 
Justin & Anthony team upThe first challenge split the quartet into two-man teams - Randy Block and Craig Pawling versus Justin Peters and Anthony Sorentino. The teams would face off in a three-hole Ryder Cup-style format, with each hole being worth a point. The first hole was alternate shot, the second better-ball and the third was combined team score, and the team winning the most points would receive the luxury of not having to face the upcoming elimination challenge.
 
The team of Block and Pawling quickly got a huge break, as Randys approach shot on the first hole somehow escaped the trees on the right and bounced down onto the green about 30 feet from the cup. After finding the green in regulation, a missed three-footer by Peters resulted in a three-putt bogey, giving Block and Pawling the first point of the day.
 
I felt terrible I missed that putt, said a shocked Peters. I just hit it too hard.
 
On the second hole, with better-ball in play, Peters found himself in position to win the hole with a 20-foot birdie putt, and to also gain some redemption for his short miss at the last. His putt found the bottom of the cup and earned the team its first point and drew them even heading into the final hole.
 
We had been talking all week about gut checks, and what really defines a golfer is coming through, said happy teammate Sorentino. He drained that putt and I was thrilled.
 
The final hole of the skills challenge, where combined scores would decide the winner, the contestants faced a tough 220-yard par-3. Sorentino, the only player to find the dance floor, hit a beautiful long iron that finished up just short of the flagstick. His resulting par and teammate Peters' bogey-4 beat their opponents by a stroke, leaving Block and Pawling to do battle to see who would stay alive.
 
In the elimination challenge each player was given the chance to select between one of five shots in which he felt he could beat his opponent. The five choices were a 185-yard long iron shot, a fairway bunker shot, a flop shot, a greenside bunker shot and a 65-foot putt, with the player closer to the hole being the winner. Each shot was worth a point and the first contestant to reach two points would move on to the next show.
 
Pawling was the first to choose and citing his belief in his distance control on long putts, decided to go with the putting competition. Wrong move, as his putt was well short and to the left, coming to rest 9 feet 6 inches from the hole. Block couldnt capitalize though, sending his putt racing by the hole and to the back of the green, 24 feet 2 inches away. However, by having a lower score in the skills challenge, Block wisely used the mulligan he earned and put it to good use, nestling his follow-up putt inside Pawlings and winning the point.
 
With the momentum clearly on his side, Block then selected to hit the flop shot in the second portion of the elimination challenge. The pressure was now squarely on Pawlings shoulders and he had to respond in order keep things going. And respond he did, hitting his wedge to 9 feet 1 inch and putting the pressure back in Blocks corner.
 
Its out of my hands now. Ive done all I can, said Pawling as he waited for Blocks attempt.
 
Blocks subsequent shot, however, caught the fringe and died before advancing the needed distance. The two now headed to a decisive final shot.
 
Rick Smith randomly selected the final shot in the elimination challenge, the 185-yard fairway shot, and Block was to be the first to hit. Having already struggled with his long irons in the earlier challenge, Block continued the trend, pushing his 5-iron well right of the green, 133 feet 5 inches from the hole.
 
Randy is dejectedThat opened the door for Pawling, who despite not hitting a quality shot himself, still wound up well within Blocks distance and good enough to advance.
 
The shots they hit really, truly werent a reflection of how good of golfers they really are as it was a reflection of how bad the weather was 'it was brutal, said Sorentino about Pawling and Blocks final battle. From the beginning I thought it would end up being me, Randy and Justin. So I was a little surprised, but when the weather is like that anything can happen.
 
Tune in next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the final threesome find themselves testing their all-important short game skills, seeing which two can wedge themselves into the final shows final showdown in two weeks.
 
Related Links:
  • Video - Watch Randy Block's exit interview
  • The Big Break Home
  • Airtimes for The Big Break
  • Discussion Boards - Talk about the show
     
    The Big Break
  • Getty Images

    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

    Getty Images

    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

    Getty Images

    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

    Getty Images

    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”