One of the top players in the series, Rodriguezs elimination came as a surprise. Diverting from the shows format in which challenges allow competitors to earn points that are used to determine which players make or fail to make the cut, Hiroshi Matsuo and Rodriguez, who were one and two on the cumulative point standings through the first two episodes, selected teams to compete in best-ball, alternate-shot and match-play competitions. The entire losing team from the match went to the Elimination Challenge, where one of the members will be sent home.
In Tuesdays edition of the 12-week series, Brian Kontak won the Ryder Cup style competition, which was the conclusion of the prior weeks show, for Team Matsuo with an eagle. The defeat sent Rodriguez and his team to the Elimination Challenge, where he twice missed short putts that could have prevented elimination.
Rodriguez was vocal about the format that sent him home even though he was only one point behind leader Matsuo prior to the team competition.
I hope the viewers liked what I could give them, Rodriguez wrote in a GolfChannel.com blog. I hope they all feel the same way I do -- upset; disappointed and more than anything, cheated. The twist GOLF CHANNEL put in the show I felt was unfair.
GOLF CHANNEL producers told competitors prior to the series that points earned in the challenges would carry over and players that top players would not have to go through the Elimination Challenge. But most of the competitors also realize that this is Big Break: Mesquite and nothing is written in stone.
The elimination is a setback to a career that appeared to be rock solid at one point. In 1997, two years removed from the Texas A&M campus, Rodriguez was being hailed as the next Latin star of the PGA TOUR by the likes of Chi-Chi Rodriguez. And he deserved the attention. In college he was a First Team All-American and led the nation with six wins in 1995.
Then reality hit. Despite flashes of success on TOUR, like finishing 13th in the Canadian Open, he lost his playing card. Rodriguez felt he had let people down. A-Rod, as he is called, first met Chi Chi when he was 14 and considers him a mentor. The pressure to perform and not disappoint the former PGA TOUR star or the Latino community took a toll. His career took a slow downward spiral. After losing his TOUR card, he played on the Nationwide Tour, where he had some success and twice posted second place finishes. Eventually, in 2004, his lack of desire to keep chasing the dream led him to retirement.
It seemed like Rodriguezs career was over until he saw Jason Gore in the 2005 United States Open. A journeyman professional, Gore contended in the U.S. Open when he played in the final group on Sunday with two-time U.S. Open Champion Retief Goosen. Later in the year, Gore won his third event on the Nationwide Tour to earn a promotion to the PGA TOUR, where he promptly won the 84 Lumber Classic.
Inspired, Rodriguez once again started playing competitive golf. Last year, he was the Canadian Tours rookie of the year, which was ironic because other players gave him the nickname Pops. He played the Canadian Tour with success again this season and plans to attempt to earn his PGA TOUR card at the Qualifying Tournament.