Mark Farnhams Blog - Big Break 7
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Final Episode
The only thing stronger than Tommys grip on his club was his grip on this championship after he eagled the first hole and took the next with Ashleys miscue to go 2-up after two holes. After that, the final show was really a question about whether or not Ashley could prolong the inevitable or maybe, just maybe summon up the competitive fire in her game that served her so well in earlier shows. It just proved not to be her match, and the putter that started to go a little cold at the end of her match against Mike and Tommy stayed that way in this match. Tommy just kept up his pressure hitting green after green and making a course that is somewhat demanding look like a pitch-and-putt at times. Lets just set the record straight on something here given what was at stake, this was an impressive display of golf, and he was hitting it 300-325 off the tee and leaving himself with short irons into most greens. When is the last time you were torn between a 9-iron and a PW from 161 yds out? And so, we get the deserving champion, and the best player at the Reunion manages to work his magic and win.
Im a Tommy Gainey fan, and a fan of the other 80+ players who put their games on display in the crucible that is The Big Break. It isnt pure golf, but it is pure pressure, and pressure that many tour players dont even face. During the taping of this show, Tommy Gainey had just won the first stage of PGA TOUR school qualifying, then filmed this show for two weeks, and had only a day to recover before heading out for 2nd stage. He shot an 80 on that first day which would have crushed the dreams of most players. Instead, he dug deep and roared back with a barrage of birdies over the next three rounds and just missed making the finals of Q-school and a shot at the PGA TOUR, and at least gaining some status on the Nationwide Tour, by a single stroke. You can debate what effect the show had on him. Was he too tired on the first day and ill prepared, or was it his confidence that brought him back? All I know is, that I admire a guy who fights for his dinner, and with each step in Gaineys career hes learned a little something more. This year at Q-school, Id look for him to advance.
Final thoughts from out of the rough
Gary isnt as bad as everyone thinks. Cindy really did help my golf game. Nicky and Eddie never did hook up, or did they? Kim is the nicest person you will ever meet, but she wants to win really badly. Val is two people: fire when playing and ice when relaxing. Kelly can fix your back in a pinch. Pam was scared that Dani was going to pop out at any time for the first few days (really!). Bri had a boyfriend back home, so the Tommy stuff was just for TV. Tommy has a girlfriend back home who he is now back together with so hes got some splaining to do. Ashley and Dave were hysterical together and one night jumped in the pool at the common house just for laughs. Donny and Mike helped me each morning find a swing to survive. Laura was my savior who made the show fun for me during a difficult time in my life when golf wasnt super important. Vince is as down to earth as it gets and youd love to sit with him at a bar. Steph? How does she know all of that stuff without spotters!
I also give this little bit of advice to those of you who come after us. The most talented group of men ever assembled for a Big Break are all set for Series 8 and a shot at the PGA TOUR so this is for them: Enjoy your time. Respect your competitors. Oh, and one other thing nobody likes to be the first one to go home so dont let it be you. Well all be watching.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 11
A Tale of Two Putters ... and Two Gloves
I went to the final expecting to see some great golf and at times, I think we saw it. Under the circumstances and the pressures that this format can place on you, the competitors really performed well. Tommy showed why he is the class of the competition and was on such a good playing streak at the time in his Q-school run, and just played his own game on his way to qualifying and never looked in doubt from the opening tee shot. Up in the peanut gallery, we all thought it was always going to come down to Mike and Ashley, and so it did.
What was amazing was how really poorly Mike putted during the early holes of the final, when during the previous two weeks he was actually really solid with his putter. He left the first few holes a bit short, then made a few poor strokes and misreads. On the other side of the coin, anything within the leather of Ashleys long putter was a gimme and anything beyond that as well. She just kept making great and gutsy saves as the round rolled on. As it turned out, though, it was Mikes putter heating up on 8 and 9 that finally let him catch her for the playoff ' and you had to sort of want to re-add the card to make sure they got it right, because it sure looked like she had beat him on TV, but they shot the same score.
During the playoff, it was pretty tense when Ashley went down. It was actually several minutes, and nobody up by the green knew what was happening. I thought she must have been stung by a bee or was throwing up, and we were all very concerned for her. It was hard to see, but was very impressive to see her pull it back together and make par after all of that, and so we lost the Big Breaks biggest Teddy Bear.
The first segment of the finals produced two really interesting memories for me. The first was that when Mike struggled on the third hole to hit that shot from under the tree on the par-5; he was actually hitting from the exact spot where Gary and I had our showdown, and Mike said to me later that it looks easy enough until you have to stand up and hit it. The second thing happened on about the sixth hole, when Mike made a good shot and I cheered for him and Bri leaned back and said something like, You dont actually want him to win do you? I was floored by this. She was so in to the fact that her BFF and boyfriend for the week were playing that anyone else could kick sand onto the beach towel. I cant remember exactly what I said, but I dont imagine it was very nice. I was always a Mike fan, but from here on in I was cheering when he was taking a sip of Diet Coke or putting a tee in the ground. I even got Kelly to do the wave with me for him.
I was sad to see the big fella not make it into the final, but I know that was just my heart talking. The best two players are in the finals, and the Head Cheerleader is just going to have to decide which one to root for in the big match. Only Gunas can bear to sit through listening to her, and thats mainly because he is doing match commentary, which is really funny if you are close enough to hear it. I end up watching the final match but I have a hard time rooting for either player. It isnt because of anything in particular, but when they head out for the match, I am just hoping to see a close match played with some class. I know they are both really talented. One I think has a distinct edge over the other but they have to play it out, because in match play anything can happen, and sometimes the cheerleader doesnt get what she wants.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 10
'The God of Small Things'
Golf is a game of fair. We might not always like the bounces the ball takes, or the way we are playing on a given day, but ultimately, it is a lot like life. Simply put, you play the game, add up the strokes and see how you did. That all changes a bit when you play Match Play, where it's still fair, but lets just say you might be facing a fight armed as David (Gunas) vs. Goliath Two Gloves, and you've got to look a bit harder for the fairness.
The earlier matches notwithstanding and the fine play of Mike and Ashley with steady pars seeing them through to the 3-way final, this show was really all about the battle of two very differently skilled golfers.
Tommy, out-driving Dave by as much as 60+ yards and Dave looking so nervy with anything other than a putter or microphone in his hand. It was fascinating to watch. I actually thought this was going to go the way of the biblical story as well, and Tommy was going to miss that final putt in regulation but that just wasn't how this story was meant to go. In the end, Dave's Demons were too strong, and his driver just was at too much of a disadvantage to Tommys to survive, leaving him long 3-woods and 5-irons into greens vs. Tommy's short irons and wedges. And so the Big Break loses one of it's most beloved characters and hairstyles of all time, and easily it's 'Boss of the Moss (both for the hairdo and putting!).
We learned a lot this week, and perhaps most telling is that Ashley and Mike, who got to watch this match from safe city, probably gained a lot more confidence in seeing the mighty Tommy nearly stumble against Dave, whom they all regarded as a bit of a pretender. The final 3 represent a collection of some of the strongest players to come to the Reunion; and interestingly, each from a different season. Each player is coming to the final hoping to win, but I think only two really think they can win it ' and only one is going home driving a new Aspen to their date on Tour. This show is a LOT harder than you can imagine. Just listen to Tommy talk about the pressure. Here's a guy who had just finished first at the first stage of Q-school, and was just about to leave for second stage, and this show was eating him alive. It's a pressure you can't describe to people and next week it's only going to get more intense. Just like in Highlander there can be only one!
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 9
'A Night at the Movies'
A Few Dollars More:
Got to throw Clint Eastwood into any movie list! I'm not sure what this group was happier about being rid of Don or winning his money. I can tell you this: nobody wanted to see that guy in a match-play final, and they'd have paid not to do it. It's never easy to have people pulling against you, but Donny had the chance to do an ultimate Booyah and all he needed was a safe up-and-down with 2 putts from that waste bunker and he wins $5000 and moves on but unfortunately for Don (and the show!) he over-thought it and created one of the worst blunders we've seen from one of the best players the show has seen. At least he has that beautiful Aspen and the money from the first show to ease his pain.
The Cinderella Man:
People fall into three camps on Don Donatello. You love him, you hate him, or you love to hate him. Count me in the first one. I love the guy. You see, I respect and admire someone who has dreams, and has the faith and courage to follow them. Don is a lot of things on TV, but what you don't see off it is a man who loves his family and talks about them all the time, and during our few breaks and phone time was glued to his phone with his wife whom he loves dearly. People who don't know the man want him to give up fighting, and give up trying because they think they know what is best for him. Only Don and his family know that. However, like a boxer who has been hit many times we either cheer for him when he gets back up off the canvas to go another round, or pray he stays down for the next round. Me, I hope he keeps playing until he knows for a fact that he doesn't WANT to do it anymore. He's not as far away from making it as a lot of you think. Personally, I think if Don stopped analyzing and caddying in his mind and just played, he'd already be there. He needs to go back to playing like he did when golf was fun, like he did when he was a kid.
Donny is exactly what makes The Big Break such a compelling and entertaining television program. He has the necessary talent to be at least a Nationwide Tour level player, but somehow hasn't found a way to not self destruct. He is fascinating, interesting, likeable, dislikeable, honest, direct, brash, cocky, handsome, and pretty much what you look for in central casting of a reality TV show. If you don't get Donny D you don't get The Big Break. All I can say is that he may not have won again on Big Break 7, but he's managed to steal another show!
The Fantastic 4:
So we're down to four players. I think we have two clear favorites, one dark horse, and one who is just hoping to keep talking long enough that everyone will not notice that he's still actually playing golf in the event. As Trevino said to Nicklaus: 'No, Jack, you don't have to talk back, all you have do is listen.' What a final couple of weeks we have in store.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 8
Calling Dr. Love
While I was knocked off the show from a broken game, Tommy nearly ended up being sent home as a victim of a broken heart. It was strange to see it all unfold, as we all knew about his crush, but seeing how deeply it affected him was strange. He was a wreck for most of the show, but his game is indeed strong, and when he needs to call on it, he can slap on a pair of new gloves and head off to battle.
Watching the speed golf challenge through my range finders I was calling out the action live for the other competitors and eliminated guests, and the most shocking thing was to see how much time Val took on the green to take out the pin. That cost them the victory right there. With only a second as a margin of victory, it put another 4 or 5 onto their total, and wiped out an amazing couple of shots by Tommy and Laura. Gunas? Well, only Dave would line up his putt on a speed golf challenge to try and make birdie. The logic would have held if the execution was there. Some people dance to the beat of a different drummer. Gunas has a whole marching band. playing Grateful Dead tunes.
Having never done the dice before (Its the only prop we didnt have on Season 1!), I have to say that it looks really hard. I remain impressed by Tommys ability to always dig deep and find a shot when he needs it. The man can play golf. My money was on Mike, though, watching the competition when it started, which shows you why I shouldnt gamble. David, strike up your band!
Onto the elimination, and who would have thought Laura would miss two short putts to let Mike slip past her and be sent home? She actually sounded like she was starting to feel better, too, and for me that was one of the shockers of the series. I expected her to win that elimination. Its a shame to not have her on the show anymore as she really added some spice and wit; and as a viewer these past few weeks I really enjoyed watching her both as a competitor and her personality.
As Naughty eliminated contestants, we were off playing golf and gave our wardens the slip. When we saw that the elimination challenge was still set up, with the contestants and crew gone, one in our party (who shall remain nameless) drove down to get the final score. Only problem was we didnt know what the scores meant! We couldnt tell if Tommy with 3 points or Laura with 0 was going home. It was pretty funny trying not to get caught. Of course, I was very sad when I heard my old partner was knocked out, and by now the show was starting to wind down. We only had a few days left in paradise, with 27 during the day and late nights of hanging out and hearing old war stories and drinks by the pool at night. It sounds great, but I, like everyone else, was really missing home only a few days more to go.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 7
'Girls just wanna have fun'
It was hard to watch the first 10 minutes of the show this week. I really felt for Pam, and thought that Bri and Ashley ganged up on her and some of the others just piled on. It's tough not having an ally when you are on one of these shows, and the clique played dirty in my book. I think Pam was right, and Bri acts like a bratty child at times on the show, but Pam just wasn't up to sticking up for a fight of 1 against the rest of the field as she saw it. It was a shame. Bri puts her poor sportsmanship off on being 'competitive,' and that's just how she is, but it's a sad state of affairs. Golfers who throw tantrums rarely reach their potential. A rare few make a name for themselves, like Tommy Bolt, but Bri has a lot of playing to go to be in that class. Pam also needs to see that she could have avoided all of this by staying quiet, or sticking with the 'Thumper' strategy of saying something nice. In all, it was disappointing, and the show lost a week as a result. Off camera, we were kept away from Pam. Once withdrawn, you are removed from the Big Break family and although we saw her once from afar, that was it.
The Immunity challenges were actually pretty good, although on the Par 5 challenge only Don looked to have a real birdie try, and Tommy should be feeling really lucky for not having gone for that hole in 2 with his length. At stage 2, that was one of the best challenges of the whole series. Fun to watch, and good golf. Three scores of 21 were fantastic, and no real shock that solid ball-striker Ashley makes it through here. So it's on to the putting challenge, and the only surprise is that Dave wins without ever hitting a putt! How does this happen? Dave is the best putter in Big Break history, and this plays into everyone's minds, but also into his, and he knows that the others can be streaky so he plays his odds right and wins.
Elimination and Laura London shows why she is the queen of the Knock Out stage. She just plays well with her back against the wall. Sweet birdie! Mike survives, and Bri is gone, perhaps with some poetic justice for what happened with Pam. I never really thought Bri got out of the gate on this show. She hit a lot of mid-poor shots, and without Tommy in the early stages to carry her through could have been gone sooner.
The surreal thing about all of this is that we are filming all of this while Big Break VI and Golf with Style are both airing (Fun to watch me top one!). Each week we were there, we get to watch at the big house, strange things happen. For example, Kelly Murray was eliminated on VII during the day, and that night the show aired live when he was eliminated on VI. Talk about your bad days!! Eliminated twice on the same day. We are watching Bri and Gary, and I can't help but think how if they had the chance to see the full series VI they might have been a little bit different on VII. I do think Bri is a sweet person with a lot of talent, but I hope she learns that difference between competitive fire and self destruction.
Also, on the one of the worst days of the Big Break I have one of my best. My coach, Cindy Miller, should be nominated for Sainthood, as I shoot a 73 today, and win 12 skins against these sharks with a slew of birdies and only a couple of blow up holes. Cindy as a golf coach is like a holistic healer; she treats the whole golfer not just the swing ' my timing, tempo and attitude are coming back. I'm impressed by this lady. Not bad considering the state of my game just a week prior. We are all certain of a playback now, and I am frankly licking my chops because NOBODY is going to be expecting me to be a factor, and certainly nobody is going to be thinking I'm playing this well again.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 6
'Chutes and Ladders'
It never ceases to amaze me on this show how some players step up and some players fizzle. The best player on paper in the field, Tommy Gainey, didn't think too much about the challenge and left the 3 wood in the bag and hit driver through the grid, and was eliminated... thus fizzling out of this episode and the Ultimate Immunity Challenge.
However, you have to give some real respect for the short game skills of Laura London who really impressed in the ladder drill taking all 6 points... and making it look very easy. More fizzles and a bit of shock to see Mike miss the green, but we also see that Bri without Tommy isn't really up to the task either, and she just doesn't seem to be hitting many good shots this season. I was disappointed to see both her and Ashley throw down the clubs and have the little tantrum... I know she has a good competitive fire, but I wish she'd channel it better.
The main event was all about Don. He remains the only golfer in the world who is wound so tight that he could change the compression of a golf ball just by holding it in his hand. His comments about wanting to beat his five year old daughter at Chutes and Ladders were telling, and a glimpse into the man's soul. He's one of the most honest people you will ever meet, and I love the guy, but man does he hate to lose. He's not a sore loser or anything, but he's the sort of guy who feels that a gracious loser is still a loser, and he has no room in his trophy case for 2nd place medals. I wish he could dial it down a notch just for his own piece of mind, because he has some real talent which we see time and time again on the show... but a cross between his fire and Kelly's laid back attitude would probably be an unbeatable force... or a yoga guy who'd kill you with a 6 iron.
With the teams broken up the one thing that is evident is that the cliques are still there. It's still Ashley, Bri, and Tommy vs. everyone else. Tempers look ready to flare up as now Don is showing people up, and the issues still remain with Pam and Dave. The only ones immune from all of this are Laura and Mike who could get along with just about anyone, and Laura's comments are still some of the best going on the show. She just makes you want to root for her!
Over on the sleepy side of the eliminated life... We play more golf and hang out at the beautiful Ginn Reunion resort and visit the Lazy River... which basically lets you float in a circle and return to your starting point to hop out and have more drinks. It's prison, but a very, very nice prison. We also keep track of the goings on via my stolen radios... and I overheard a conversation from a producer about what some of the girls say in the confessional about one of the current contestants. I know the next morning it is going to be pure fireworks. I give the radio back, and when I do I know that the show and the series are never going to be the same after this night. I almost wish I hadn't heard it... this changes everything... Chutes and Ladders.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 5
'Lean on Me'
Maybe the most interesting thing about the partnerships so far has been that in some of the surviving teams, one partner has carried the other through many of the challenges, and again Bri was fortunate to have Tommy to bring her through the challenges and safety. She's really an intriguing person to watch on the show because her personality on camera and in the events is one of fire and brimstone, but off camera she is as nice as could be. I'm not sure how much this hurts her in competition, but I think if she could calm down a bit... she'd probably be a better player. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was watching two different people.
I don't think anyone was shocked to see that it was Kelly and Nikki that were eliminated, and the only thing I think that was surprising was to see that Nikki was starting to get a little annoyed with Kelly and his coaching. She needed to speak up for herself sooner and they might have survived... as clearly she was uncomfortable attempting some of the shots he had her hit. It was a shame, because they really did get along well off camera, and all of the teams hit some poor shots that left it open for anyone to survive. Kelly is one of the nicest people at Big Break, and although a bit out there... I'm happy he's coming over to the house to hang out with me. It's a natural buffer between Gary and myself to have him around. Now we won't have to ring 911 after all or find a place to hide a body.
The day following this was Media day, and one where we posed for pictures and filmed the opening credits and got to see our friends again. It was nice up until dinner time when we were split up again, and the contestants still in the contest were allowed off site for a dinner and the eliminated group still held captive. Boredom is really high, and outside of driving our captors crazy by stealing their radios to listen in on broadcasts and make a little mayhem (pure fun!)... we generally practice and play golf in the AM, eat, and try to figure out when a play back show will take place. Eddy never makes it up before noon... and doesn't play golf or practice ever (perhaps he was serious about Tennis?). Now we have Kelly and Nikki joining us though... and livening up our games. During a practice round and with Gary caddying for him he shoots a 30 (-6) for 9 holes. He is an amazing player when he can keep it to vanilla shots and not always trying to pull off the 140 yard driver from the deck over water to a tucked pin. Cindy, the Wonder Coach, is getting me closer to a break through. She rides with me each day, and besides the lessons, just watching her play has helped immensely.
On the day after Media day, we see the 8 competitors leaving for the event in the morning after their warm-ups... and it's hard not wanting to be with them for the day. Some of us just want to compete like Gary... and some of us just want to erase bad memories like me... but mostly, we just want to be back with our friends and cheering them on as they face the crucible that is this competition. It all looks so easy sitting in the comfort of a living room... Standing on that tee with your tournament life at stake and one swing keeping you alive... it's a different feeling all together, and very few golfers know that feeling.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 4
All good (and bad stories!) come to an end. I watched the show last night and although I lived it, it was surreal to see it up on the screen. I kept wanting to warn myself of the train wreck that was coming, but that wasn't possible. Having kept the covenant of silence about the outcome from my wife, she was forced to bear witness to 'The Horror of the Sixteen Shots' for the first time, and it was tough to sit through.
Let's roll back though. The day started out as bad as it gets. Laura was her sickest on the day and couldn't even warm up at the range and I had began shanking nearly every swing with wedges. So when I spun the wheel the only shot I didn't want was the fairway shot which to most was the easiest! However, I dug deep and hit the best shot out of anyone then just when I needed to call upon one of the strongest parts of my game (and one I had neglected to practice!) I missed the short putt to give Laura and I a needed lead. Psychologically, it was devastating to me.
So we're still looking at a chance to put Don and Ashley into an elimination, and Don is a bundle of nerves. Heading to the second station, the wind is howling, and we decide to send up Laura, figuring she has 4 swings in her at most, but if truth be told, I was surprised she even attempted one swing! She manages to hit good shots, and scores a 3 but we're now in last place. That sends me off first in the unlimited swing challenge.
I don't feel comfortable at all on this, and despite hitting several good shots into the breeze that either just miss or bounce through the zone the numbers start adding up. Once they do, I start to lose it. My swing, which was only held together with duct tape and C-clamps is now completely gone and I know we're going into the elimination, and I just want to end it. I just need a ball in the zone. Finally after 16 shots. I am mentally crushed by this humiliating experience, and it's hard even thinking about what lies ahead.
Once we see Mikey get some bad luck and end up in the elimination, and I see it's bunkers and I have barely even practiced out of them, I know my time on the show is going to be over. After I thin the first oneI am resigned to go home and have lost the will to compete. This show wasn't so serious and was supposed to be more fun, and I was no longer having any so I just wanted to get out of dodge as quickly as I could. It showed with a total lack of interest on my shots. I regret doing that now. I owed the show and Mike more than that. Don't get me wrong, he still would have beat me like a drum! But I should have played it out but something about having to spend all that time trying to hit all those shots earlier did something to me that day, and I just wanted to get out of his way.
After Kim is eliminated, Mike is a wreck. He is sad to have eliminated me (someone had to do it!) and even more so for not hitting the shot and causing Kim to end up in elimination. All in all it was a tough day for the big fella. Mike is one of most decent people ever to appear on the series, and I genuinely wish him well as we say our good-byes.
So Cinderella had broken his slipper and was leaving the ball for good. My punishment? I now had a new roommate! Gary Ostrega. Can you imagine that! Next morning I teed off with Gary and Cindy playing skins and he looked like he was out for blood I made a wacky par (on the hole I was eliminated on!) to win the first skin and barely scraped it around for an 81, and kept it at even par thru 8 before falling to pieces. Gary, I hate to say, can play golf from the back tees he shot -2, but Cindy still managed to win the skins game that day. She's agreed to coach my game back to good health in our remaining time here. If there is a play back show, I'd watch out She's a top-50 coach, and we've got nothing but time.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 3
The hardest part about this format is not actually playing on the off days. Having survived the day before, I was really happy to get another day to practice but instead of spending a MUCH NEEDED day at the range, I was at the course all day watching the action, which was interesting to say the least ' but I kept wanting to sneak away to hit balls.
The morning was filled with shocks and surprises Dave losing a putting contest? I think he (and I!) would have bet the farm and lost it. Then, Nikki holding on to the lead from the bunker shot to put them into the elimination. Purely a classy shot albeit, one that took a bit of time and coaching! I think it just showed everyone that she and her partner have some skills up their sleeves.
What you are also only getting a glimpse of at this point is the rift that is forming in the team of Dave and Pam. Off camera, Pam is openly complaining about Dave and starting to make comments about how she wishes he might lose the competition on the day so she might end up with a new partner. Clearly trouble lies ahead and a very different relationship than what most of the other teams have going on.
When the elimination is announced, I think that it is probably going to be Dave and Val who make it through because Pam just isn't of the mindset to go forward, and Dave has such a great short game. After a few weaker shots from Val and Eddie to start the first circle, Pam and Dave more or less were able to coast to victory and the event was over with little fanfare.
What a difference a day makes. The day before, there were huge cheers for me to eliminate Gary but now nobody wanted to see either of these two go, and it's hard to say goodbye, so only polite golf claps. This is tough. Val was my partner on Golf with Style, and I wanted to see her do well and I love Eddie's spirit and know he has a great golf game, which just didn't travel well. Eddie is also welcome as my doubles partner at tennis any time he likes and can join me on my trip over to Dick's to help me pick out a racket!
During our downtime at the range, Mike is helping me with my swing like the gentleman that he is. He and Kim are nothing but class, and two of the nicest people you'd ever want to run across on any golf course. Yesterday, he's sending me to elimination; today helping me try to eliminate my over-the-top move.
Tomorrow who knows? Maybe back into battle against each other again! That's just the way it is on the Big Break Reunion. We never know what lies ahead.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 2
The Hack Strikes Back
The whole seedings thing was never a mystery to me. I figured straight away we were playing Mike and Kim to see if we were going to an elimination, and knew wed probably need a little luck to get past them. Mike is one of the best ball-strikers on the show, and Kim has one of the best short games. At the gambling table, I think we played it right, and I was happy with my shot when it left my club ' even thinking it might go long ' and was surprised to hear it came up short losing our wager. So when Mikey stepped up and matched Lauras bet and great shot, we were facing an uphill battle.
The one-club challenge, we sent out Laura as our player of choice, and I wanted her to go Hybrid + Hybrid and putt for it, because I saw Kim had chosen 6-iron which meant three shots to get it to the green and a likely 5 on the hole Again, a good strategy, but just a bit of bad luck. Laura draws the ball 99.9% of the time and this time it faded into the hazard so we lost and headed to the elimination to face off against my housemate Gary.
Its Deja-vu for me as its the same Seve shot that I got eliminated on in BB1, so Im not real happy to see it again. Gary is acting like a jerk to everyone, and I start to think that he believes he just needs to head back to the cart and acts as hes already through so I get it in my mind that if I can just make one shot in the circle Ill rattle him, and having just seen him on BB6, this is a guy who rattles easy and who also shanks under pressure, despite his PGA TOUR playing background and PGA of America credentials. So when he goes first, and opens the door, I seize the opportunity, but not without calling on my old friend Seve, and his 6-iron. I hadnt realized until later that my talking to Gary or the camera guys was bugging him but as Lee Trevino famously said to Jack Nicklaus you dont have to talk, all you have to do is listen.
Station 2 Gary regroups and hits a good shot, and I actually think about hitting the 6-iron again, and have this in my mind on the first swing and chunk it. Switching to the 8 and choking down I take MANY practice swings, picture the circle, and hit another good shot. Now, only 4 points to his 6. He looks so upset he is about to burst. My shot in the circle sends the other players into a frenzy and this really annoys Gary.
Final station and having watched Cindy Miller, one of the classiest ladies Ive ever met in golf go down. But he has to go first. I tell him the Notre Dame battle cry Play like a Champion and he turns around and gives me a dirty look, which just tells me Karma has a plan for this man to go down. He makes it in 5 so I have 7 shots to work with and I hit a good one on my second, but when I hit it in the circle on my 4th, to eliminate him The Peanut gallery goes wild and Gary is one angry man.
Gary thought he was the best player on the show, and he just got beaten by the weakest. As Mike put it, it was like a 16 seed taking out a 1 seed at March Madness. However, the thing you have to remember is that if you want to take home the trophy at the end of a knockout tournament, you not only have to beat the best, you better be able to beat the worst.
Mark Farnham's Contestant Blog - Episode 1
I'm naturally a bit excited to meet all of these people I've been watching on TV for the past 3 years... and not the least of which, to see what their reaction to me is going to be. Widely regarded throughout TV Land as the worst golfer ever to appear on the Big Break, I come without a chip on my shoulder, but I can only imagine what they must think! I also got to watch as our RV was replaced with Private Jet... and Cabins exchanged for luxury suites, and a barbecue for a private chef... I'm figuring they owe me 5 strokes a side (and I think I need it!) That said, I have no idea who is coming to this season... and I am just plain excited to see who is going to be there!
I walk into the meeting room for the first time... and it's funny. I seem to know everyone, and they don't know me! Ah, the joy of being on the first season! We settle in, and one by one people arrive. I'm so happy to see my pals from Golf with Style... and characters like Don and Dave are there... and I keep waiting for another friend from Season 1. I'm a sharp guy, and when it starts to look like an equal number of guys and girls... I'm guessing what is coming next... but when Big Mike comes in... I can't help to be disappointed to realize that I am all alone from my season. It's a reunion of people I've watched... but not one with my friends.
Next up it's time to find out who our partners are, and I KNOW that someone is going to be disappointed to find out they get me. It's Laura, and she is a good sport about it all... and I feel lucky to have such a great spirit... everyone does their best to look happy about their teams. Some seem happier than others (Tommy looks like it's his Birthday AND Christmas)... and some seem downright upset. Val and Eddie look like they have issues left over from Big Break 4 when Val did the behind the scenes interviewing... and you can already see why the producers chose teams. Laura and I just laugh a lot, and it's easy to see that we are going to have the most fun of any of the teams... as long as you can laugh in a backswing.
At the start of the glass break... we are all still friendly... the teams are just starting to come together. It's a fine bunch, but the cliques are starting to form. Ashley/Tommy/Bri hang together... and feel they have the competition won before the first swing. It's different from Big Break 1. We all pulled for each other and it was more like a golf outing with your buddies... this is like an organized cat fight at times. After each cheer is an under the breath whisper about a person. I tend to not want to hang with the big group as a result. Cutting people down and rooting against people just isn't really my thing...
We finish the event, and Kelly 'gifts' us with 8 points. What a shocker... and the ironic thing is that his old partner from VI, Bri turns him in. It's a shame, but it's the right thing to do. After a poor performance in the second event... we are facing the flop shot sitting in 4th place. I'm feeling pretty good about it. Sending Laura up first, and thinking that if she hits a good one... I'll just sit. But when she hits the wall, I just figure to hit it over the wall anywhere... no heroics... and we end up as a middle seed. I'm gutted when I hit the wall. It's my favorite all time event... and I failed miserably. I feel like I let Laura down, and she feels like she let me down.
We're seeded 7th... which doesn't mean too much to us. We think all of these teams are good. So the way we're looking at this is that we're going to have to beat one of them to survive... and we start to figure that we're in the bottom half... so we're either playing against other bottom teams for survival, or Top teams to find elimination.
All I know is that I need to find my way to the range. The 3 years of very little playing have added a lot of rust to my weak game, and I owe it to Laura to find something. That's the funny thing about the team aspect... you just want to do well for your partner.
Oh well... The Gathering has begun... and as in Highlander, there can be only One! With an Elimination looming... the first and only thing on everyone's mind... is don't let me be the first one to go home!!!
Repeat U.S. Open win gives Koepka credit he deserves
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an ironic twist Sunday, the last man to win consecutive U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final round at Shinnecock Hills.
Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his composure as the on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his ball in the fescue. Didn’t talk too loudly while Koepka lined up a putt.
Instead, Strange stood off to the side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in awe as Koepka stamped himself as the best U.S. Open player of this next generation.
And so after Koepka became the first player in 29 years to take consecutive Opens, Strange found himself fourth in the greeting line near the 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s playing competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.
But there Strange was, standing on a sandy path leading to the clubhouse, ready to formally welcome Koepka into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.
“Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above the din. “Incredible.”
That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying.
Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, deep fescue, but heavy rain early in the week and the absence of any significant wind turned golf’s toughest test into the Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his way to a record-tying score (16 under par) and over the past year has never felt fully appreciated, in large part because of the weirdness of the USGA setup.
Koepka doesn’t concern himself with that type of noise, of course, but when he arrived at Shinnecock earlier this week he felt a sense of familiarity. The generous fairways. The punishing venue. The premium on iron play.
“It’s a similar feel,” Elliott said. “We said it all week.”
A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills might not have been held in high regard, but the rich history of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.
“He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m proud of him because there was some talk last year of Erin Hills not being the Open that is supposed to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”
“This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.
Those around the 28-year-old were shocked that he even had a chance to defend his title.
Last fall Koepka began feeling discomfort in his left wrist. He finished last in consecutive tournaments around the holidays, then underwent an MRI that showed he had a torn ligament in his left wrist.
Koepka takes immense pride in having a life outside of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – but he was downright miserable during his indefinite stint on the sidelines. He said it was the lowest point of his career, as he sat in a soft cast up to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The only players he heard from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
“You just feel like you get forgotten,” Koepka said.
During the spring, Elliott would occasionally drive from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in the dumps,” he said. “That sort of injury he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was the most frustrating thing.”
After the Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling better and that he was going to start hitting balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes at The Floridian.
“He was hitting it right on the button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. I have no idea how he does it. He’s just a tremendously talented guy.”
In limited action before the Open, Koepka fired a trio of 63s, at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been short on confidence – as a 12-year-old he once told his dad that he was going to drop out of school in four years and turn pro – and he recently woofed to swing coach Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win sometime in May or June.
“I said to him on the range this morning, ‘You were on your couch in January and February, not really knowing if you were going to be able to play here,’” Harmon said. “I think that’s why it means so much to him. That’s one of the reasons that he kept saying no one was more confident than him, because to get this opportunity to come back and play and have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”
Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in the mix, then survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for the lead, along with Johnson, the world No. 1 and his fellow Bash Brother.
As much as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in crunch time, especially in this major. There’s no better stage for Koepka to showcase his immense gifts than the Open, an examination that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never joined the growing chorus of complainers at Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing the setup was this: “I think the course is very close.”
Rather than whine, he said that he relished the challenge of firing away from flags. He accepted bad shots. He tried to eliminate double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no hesitation gouging out of the deep fescue, his ferocious clubhead speed allowing him to escape the rough and chase approach shots near the green, where he could rely on his sneaky-good short game.
“He has the perfect game to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He probably plays more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play the way he does in majors every week. I just think he knows how important pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”
Johnson has many of the same physical and mental attributes, and they’ve each benefited from the other’s intense focus and discipline. They both adhere to a strict diet and are frequent workout partners, which even included a gym session on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They made small talk, chatting about lifting and how many of the Sunday pins were located in the middle of the green, but after they arrived at the course they barely said two words to each other.
“They’re good friends on and off the course,” Harmon said, “but they definitely want to kick the s--- out of each other.”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re standing between me and the trophy. You don’t care much for him for 4 1/2 hours.”
There was much at stake Sunday, but none more significant than Koepka’s march on history. Squaring off head-to-head against the game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from the outset, going 3 under for the first 10 holes to open up a two-shot lead. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.
In the end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, shaking his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”
As Koepka marched away to sign his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer the answer to the trivia question, the last guy to go back-to-back at the Open.
“Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a part of a group. And it’s a good group. I hope it means as much to him as it has to me.”
This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.
His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.
“This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”
The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.
Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.
There was also one other similarity.
“Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.
“It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”
Sunday drama won't overshadow USGA's issues
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – It looked like a British Open.
It was playing like a U.S. Open.
Through two rounds, Shinnecock Hills was double trouble in the best kind of way.
It was a hybrid in the most appealing sense of golf course architecture’s ancient allure and its modern defenses.
Halfway through, the USGA was nailing the setup, with Dustin Johnson the only player under par in one of the toughest but fairest tests in recent U.S. Open memory.
This looked like it was going to be remembered as USGA CEO Mike Davis’ masterpiece, but even a Sunday to remember couldn’t trump a Saturday to forget.
Sunday’s drama - with the history Brooks Koepka made becoming the first player in three decades to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, with Tommy Fleetwood’s 63 equaling Johnny Miller’s final round record - could not restore faith being lost in the USGA’s ability to set up and manage this championship.
This U.S. Open ended with footnotes the size of headlines.
The issues arising Saturday with the USGA losing control of the course raised even more troubling questions about why this organization’s heavy hand can’t seem to avoid becoming as much a part of the story as the competition.
The controversy that was ignited Saturday when Phil Mickelson intentionally incurred a two-shot penalty by making a putting stroke on a moving ball also raised questions about the organization’s ability to fairly administer its own rules.
It’s a shame, because Davis has some good ideas.
His reimagined vision of this championship as the “ultimate test” makes sense as a better and more complete event. His ideas are designed to identify the game’s most complete player on America’s best courses better than any other major.
It’s just not working.
This year’s failure in the wake of the ’04 debacle at Shinnecock Hills is especially worrisome. Davis vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Somehow, some way, he let it happen again.
Maybe the old standards we’ve come to judge the U.S. Open upon are too high, impossible to meet with today’s more athletic player, high-tech coaching and space-age drivers, shafts and balls.
Nobody ever protected par better than the USGA, but maybe par can’t be properly protected anymore, without tricking up a course.
Because if USGA officials can’t make its exacting formula work at an architectural treasure like Shinnecock Hills, where they had it absolutely perfect for two days, you wonder if they can make it work at all.
The testament to how the USGA was nailing its formula wasn’t in what we heard the first two days. It was in what we weren’t hearing. Only one player was under par through Friday, but there wasn’t a complaint to be heard in the locker room or on the range.
They were wiping the smiles off players’ faces without infuriating them.
In that regard, the USGA was delivering a miracle.
The wonderful appeal Shinnecock Hills held as a U.S. Open/British Open hybrid at week’s start ended up being twisted into something else by week’s end. It stood as a symbol of the championship’s confusion over its proper identity.
Even with Sunday’s compelling storylines unfolding, players were still frustrated over setup.
Saturday was over the edge, with Davis admitting “there were parts of this, simply put, that were too tough.” He said winds were stronger than expected, but the winds weren’t that much different than were forecast.
So USGA officials softened the course for Sunday, with more overnight watering and more friendly hole locations.
That turned Shinnecock Hills into Jekyl and Hyde on the weekend.
Scoring told the story.
Rickie Fowler shot 84 on Saturday and 65 on Sunday. Fleetwood shot 78 and 63.
They weren’t alone, even though the weather wasn’t as dramatically different as the scores would indicate.
This wasn’t about the weather. It was about the course being manipulated in ways that frustrated players.
“They soaked the hell out of it,” Pat Perez said after tying for 36th. “They’ve got all the pins in the middle.
“It is supposed to gradually get to where it was Saturday afternoon. You don’t lose it on Saturday and then try to make up for it, soak the course and make it totally different.”
Brandt Snedeker was equally befuddled playing drastically different conditions in weather that wasn’t so drastically different.
“The thing that is unfortunate is that the guys that were playing the best golf this week took the brunt of it yesterday, when it should have been vice versa,” Snedeker said. “Some guys got robbed of a really good chance to win a golf tournament yesterday afternoon, which is not fair.”
There were other issues that continued to challenge faith in the USGA.
Despite later acknowledging it set up the course too tough in spots on Saturday, the USGA put players on the clock for slow play.
The Mickelson penalty also raised issues.
He got a two-shot penalty under Rule 14-5 (playing moving ball) when there was some outcry over whether he should have been penalized under Rule 1-2 (exerting influence), which would have opened the door to disqualification for a serious breach. The USGA rigorously defended 14-5 (playing moving ball) as the proper call.
John Daly wasn’t disqualified for striking a moving ball in a similar instance at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 1999. He also got a two-shot penalty, but there was a difference in the situations that might have justified Mickelson’s disqualification.
Daly said he intentionally hit a moving ball out of frustration, as protest over the USGA’s unfair hole locations.
Mickelson said he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills to try prevent his ball from rolling off the green. He said he knew the rules and was intentionally breaking them to gain an advantage. He compared it to using the rules to get a better lie with a drop, but there’s a difference between using the rules to your advantage and breaking them to gain an advantage.
The difference in those motivations, as Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee pointed out, opened the interpretation of the violation as a serious breach worthy of disqualification.
The question of whether Mickelson’s manipulation of the rules was serious enough to invoke disqualification as a breach of etiquette under Rule 33-7 was dismissed by the USGA as inappropriate.
It should be noted that the USGA and R&A should be applauded for its monumental overhaul of the Rules of Golf, a rules modernization going into effect next year. It’s a welcomed simplification of the rules that required an exhaustive review.
This week’s complications show the unrelenting challenges they continue to tackle.
We leave this U.S. Open with history being made, with Koepka joining Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange as just the third players since World War II to win the title in back-to-back years.
We also leave hoping the USGA can deliver four days of next year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach as free of controversy as it delivered the first two days at Shinnecock Hills, because this year’s championship felt half baked.
Will Gray contributed to this report.
Brandel rips USGA: 'There's no obvious leadership'
The 2018 U.S. Open will certainly be remembered for Brooks Koepka's successful title defense.
But there's no doubt that it will also be remembered for Phil Mickelson's decision to hit a moving golf ball on Saturday, for the USGA's decision not to disqualify him, and for the governing body once again losing control of Shinnecock Hills over the weekend.
Speaking on "Live From the U.S. Open" on Sunday night, analyst Brandel Chamblee took the USGA and its leadership to task for more than just the inconsistent playing conditions this week.
His comments - edited and condensed for clarity - appear below:
"Something was amiss in a big, big way [at Shinnecock Hills]. I think the USGA has lost a lot of the trust of the golf world. They've done it for numerous reasons.
"On their watch, they missed COR – the rebound effect in drivers. They missed the rebound effect and the combination of the rebound effect [with] the ball. They missed it, on their watch. And now, the feeling is that they’re crying foul, even though it was on their watch. And so, essentially, the equipment companies got it done, by [the USGA’s] standards, legally.
"On their watch, there have been huge mistakes in major championships. … We well know this one (Shinnecock in 2018) – a colossal mistake all the way across the board. The golf course was bumpy the first day; they didn’t quite get that right. It was awful the third day. And today, in a different kind of way, it was far too easy.
"And then there’s penalties that they levy that make absolutely no sense, penalties that they don’t levy – not disqualifying Phil Mickelson yesterday. …
"There seems to be no obvious leadership, you know, to me. No obvious leadership heading in the right direction."