Panic Sets in at Carnoustie

By November 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: The Big Break IV ' USA vs. Europe, is The Golf Channels fourth installment of its hit television series. As the title suggests however, this seasons format has been tweaked to include a team dynamic. But that in no way means the stakes arent high for each individual, as the contestants will be vying for entry into select European Tour tournaments in 2006.
 
In a first for the Big Break IV, two teams were headed to the Elimination Challenge after both squads failed to match Old Man Par during last weeks Immunity Challenge.
 
All seven remaining players would face elimination from the show and their chance at The Big Break.
 
Big Break IV
U.S. team captain Paul Holtby blasts out of a bunker in an effort to avoid elimination.
The biggest Elimination Challenge that weve been in so far. The most we had had was six, now theres actually seven. So, Ill take those odds any day, said T.J. Valentine on chances of staying alive.
 
We were relieved that the USA were there as well. Not that we wanted to knock them out, its just that it increased our chances of staying in, said Warren Bladon of Team Europe.
 
For the Elimination Challenge, each player would get two shots each from three different short game locations. At the end of each round the player with the shortest total distance away from the hole would be safe from elimination. The four remaining players then would play three holes of stroke play to see who would ultimately be sent packing.
 
Having a 40-yard shot over a couple of mounds in front of the green for their first shot, Guy Woodman set the tone by knocking both his attempts to within a total of 18 feet of the hole. His teammate Bladon ' but rival in this part of the show ' easily topped that mark with a total of just 10 feet.
 
Warren is a solid player ' all-around, said Valentine admiringly of his European counterpart.
 
Bladon, however, had to sweat it out as he watched his score threatened by both Paul Holtby of the U.S. and Thomas Blankvoort of Team Europe, the latter missing the mark by just inches.
 
With Bladon safe from elimination, the group started off to the next location but not before Marty Wilde Jr. collapsed to the ground, an apparent case of anxiety getting the better of him.
 
All this stuff was going through my head, it was horrendous, recalled Wilde Jr. on his mild panic attack. I was beating myself up. I was in the worst frame of mind ever.
 
Wilde Jr. rebounded nicely in the second round, however, as the players faced a long bunker shot with the added difficulty of trying to avoid its steep face.
 
Wilde Jr. almost holed his second shot and watched comfortably as his teammates Blankvoort and Woodman and the USAs Randall Hunt failed to match his prowess out of the sand. With just two players set to go, Wilde Jr. was starting ' albeit a bit to soon - to feel good.
 
The feeling was indeed short lived, as U.S. team captain Holtby stuck both of his attempts close to the flagstick ' for a total of about 6 feet - to win the second round and join Bladon in the next episode.
 
He hits two beautiful shots, the way he wanted to do it, and Im thinking, He deserves to be on the next show, said Hunt out of respect for his team captain Holtby.
 
The final short game shot had the players hitting a mid-ranged wedge from 70-yards over a bunker that fronted the green.
 
Blankvoort was the first to hit and quickly dashed the hopes of the other four as his wedge game was spot on. His total of just over 22 feet was good enough to lock up the final exemption from the short game portion of the Elimination Challenge.
 
Suddenly it was down to the final four and three holes of stroke play awaited. One twist, however, was that if there was an outright leader after two holes, he too, would win an instant exemption into next weeks show.
 
Big Break IV
Randall Hunt takes the long, lonely walk off the course after becoming the sixth eliminated player.
Theres a lot of pressure in this. The nerves start to come out, the pressure starts to show in people, said Valentine on the vibe of the last four contestants. If you dont play well youre going home.
 
Perhaps still battling his inner golf demons, Wilde Jr. again put himself in serious trouble on the first hole as his approach found the bushes, resulting in an unplayable lie. After a drop, he chipped on and then two putted for a double bogey. The silver lining for Wilde Jr. though, was that Hunt had also made a mess of things and he too made double bogey.
 
Woodman, meanwhile, put himself in the drivers seat by making birdie while Valentine knocked in a tough putt for par.
 
At the second hole, Woodman continued his roll with an easy par that was sufficient to claim the fourth exemption of the day. As for the others, things were as shaky as can be expected with the pressure building with each shot.
 
Valentine escaped the second hole with a bogey after hitting his tee shot way left into some scrub and stood at 1-over. Wilde Jr. found the green in regulation and was able to two putt for par and he now rested at 2-over. Unfortunately for Hunt, things were still going south as he once again made a double bogey to fall two back of Wilde Jr.
 
At the final hole, both Wilde Jr. and Valentine really tightened the screws on Hunt, each putting their tee shots on the green of the par-3. Hunt now needed nothing short of a miracle.
 
This is the Big Break IV and we have seen some pretty drastic things happen out here. Im not out of it. I still have an opportunity, said the ever optimistic Hunt on his dire situation to avoid elimination. Ive had hole-in-ones before. I know its possible. And Im thinking what a better time to have a hole-in-one.
 
But there was no miracle for Hunt as his last gasp effort fell just short of the green, affording Valentine and Wilde Jr. a big sigh of relief.
 
He never gets down on himself. He never says a bad word about anyone. He always keeps positive and keeps positive thoughts, said Wilde Jr. about the departing Hunt. Ive got a lot to learn from someone like him thats for sure.
 
This has been one of the most unbelievably things that I have gone through in my life, said Hunt, who bid a tearful goodbye to his newfound golfing friends.

The Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break IV: All Access airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (ET), as part of the networks Top Shelf Wednesday lineup of premium programming.
 
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