Golf Channel's Big Break Series Selects PGA National as Backdrop for 23rd Season

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 17, 2014, 6:30 pm

Premiering Monday, Feb. 2, Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL to Showcase the Newly Renovated PGA National Champion Course and the Famed ‘Bear Trap’

Melanie Collins Returns to Co-Host Alongside Tom Abbott

Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL Cast to be Announced Mid-January

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 17, 2014) – Golf Channel’s popular Big Break competition series will head to South Florida for its 23rd season, featuring an all-male cast of 12 aspiring golf professionals who will encounter one of the most challenging finishing stretches of holes in all of golf: The Bear Trap.

Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL, premiering Monday, Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. ET and produced in partnership with Discover The Palm Beaches and VISIT FLORIDA, will take place at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.  The newly renovated Champion Course at PGA National, home to the PGA TOUR’s Honda Classic and the famed Bear Trap, will headline the roster of courses hosting the series.  The ultimate winner will receive an exemption to a 2015 PGA TOUR event, along with cash and other prizes.  The cast will be announced in mid-January.

Big Break is a cornerstone of our original productions franchises, and we are excited to host the series at PGA National Resort & Spa, which has a tremendous amount of history,” said Jay Kossoff, Golf Channel vice president of original productions and Big Break executive producer.  “Our goal is to place our competitors in pressure situations while showcasing an elite golf destination.  With The Bear Trap as the backdrop, the pressure will be even greater for our competitors trying to advance each week throughout the season.”

HOST GOLF COURSES: Filmed on location in September, the series will unfold on four of PGA National’s award-winning golf courses, headlined by the famed Champion Course, which underwent a course redesign in 1990 by Hall-of-Famer and acclaimed designer Jack Nicklaus, and then went through a renovation in 2014.  Part of the renovation was a tweak to the design of No. 14 – the prelude to The Bear Trap (Holes 15-17) – which included bringing the green closer to the water on the right.

“The Champion Course is a thinking person’s golf course,” Nicklaus said.  “You’ve got to figure out whether to attack the greens or whether to be conservative.  That, to me, is what golf is all about.  I’ve always put a premium on accuracy, rather than power.  This golf course definitely has those elements, and I look forward to seeing those elements come into play.”

  • The Champion – Home to The Honda Classic, the Champion Course was first redesigned in 1990 and renovated further in 2014.  It features The Bear Trap – a demanding stretch of holes (15-17) that is widely known as one of the toughest in golf.
  • The Palmer – Named after its designer, Arnold Palmer, the course is a subtle nod to the game's Scottish roots and is a true risk / reward layout. Its 18th is one of the most scenic and picturesque par 5s on the property.
  • The Fazio – A complete renovation of the resort’s Haig Course, The Fazio was modernized by Tom Fazio II and is a splendid shot maker’s design.
  • The Squire – Named after Gene Sarazen and designed by George and Tom Fazio, The Squire is a test of accuracy and precision and is the most exacting of the courses at PGA National.

Tom Abbott returns as co-host for Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL, and will be joined by Melanie Collins, who made her Golf Channel debut as co-host for Big Break Florida in early 2014.

“We are grateful to PGA National Resort & Spa for leading this effort and Golf Channel for selecting The Palm Beaches,” said Glenn Jergensen, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council.  “Furthermore, the collaborative effort between Discover The Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County’s Sports, Film and Television commissions is an example of our community working together to share our incredible golfing assets with the world.”

“Home to more than 160 public and private golf courses – from executive to championship level – The Palm Beaches offer the most impressive golf experience in Florida. In fact, historically, this is where Florida’s first 18-hole golf course was built,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches. “Viewers who tune into Big Break this winter will witness what the region has to offer golfers.”

 

“It’s going to be thrilling to watch the Big Break contestants test their mettle against The Champion and mighty Bear Trap in competition,” says Joel Paige, Vice President and Managing Director of PGA National. “Over the 11 episodes, both the players vying to advance and viewers at home will see why we’re one of the world’s top golf destinations and the only Florida resort with five golf courses.”

Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL is the continuation of a relationship between VISIT FLORIDA, NBC Sports and Golf Channel that will showcase Florida as a preferred destination for leisure travel,” said Paul Phipps, Chief Marketing Officer for VISIT FLORIDA.  “With nearly 1,500 courses to choose from in the Sunshine State, we look forward to this unique opportunity to reach Big Break’s audience of avid golf enthusiasts.”

SERIES FORMAT: Golf Channel’s Big Break show concept pits highly skilled golfers against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental toughness.  During Big Break The Palm Beaches, FL, competitors will be subject to skills challenges from tee-to-green, including two of the series’ signature challenges, the popular “Glass Break” and “Flop Wall.”  One contestant will be eliminated each week, with the last player standing awarded his Big Break, an opportunity to compete on the PGA TOUR.

For the past 22 seasons, Golf Channel’s Big Break competition series has proven to be the launching pad for many aspiring professional golfers looking to take that next step in their golf careers, including PGA TOUR winners Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey and Matt Every, and U.S. Solheim Cup participants Kristy McPherson, Gerina Piller and Ryann O’Toole, all playing full time on the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour, respectively.  Several other past Big Break competitors will be competing on the world’s top tours in 2015, including Tony Finau (PGA TOUR), Mallory Blackwelder, Katy Harris, Sadena Parks and Jackie Stoelting (LPGA Tour) and Rick Cochran, Hugo Leon, James Nitties, Justin Peters and Mark Silvers (Web.com Tour).

Become a fan of Big Break on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/BigBreak

Follow Big Break on Twitter @BigBreak

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes: