Notes: Tianlang, 14, likely to make Memorial cut

By Associated PressMay 31, 2013, 1:36 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese amateur, continues to add to his scrapbook of incredible feats.

The eighth-grader shot an even-par 72 on Thursday in the opening round of The Memorial Tournament on one of the toughest and most respected courses on the PGA Tour, Muirfield Village.

''I think I played a pretty good round today,'' he said. ''It's a pretty tough course. The greens got pretty bumpy in the afternoon.''

Playing in one of the final groups of the day, Guan turned in 2 under and bogeyed two of the final three holes.

He burst onto the scene in April when he became the youngest player ever to make the cut at a major championship while finishing 58th at the Masters. He also made the cut in New Orleans.

''After the Masters and a couple of PGA Tour events, I guess I got more comfortable with it,'' he said when asked how a teenager could avoid being overwhelmed. ''It's helped a lot the first couple of events I played.''

He has no plans to leave early, either.

''A couple under would be great,'' he said of his goal in the second round. ''I'm planning to make the cut if I hit a couple under.''

FAST AND FURIOUS: The club logo at Muirfield Village is not a greenskeeper squeegeeing a putting surface.

In 146 rounds over the last 37 years coming into this year's Memorial Tournament, 39 have been delayed, interrupted or canceled by inclement weather. That's about one round per year.

Despite a cool spring, the course is relatively fast and dry – just the way tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus prefers it.

The greens have been like, well, lightning.

''The greens are really tough,'' said Michael Thompson, who put up an early 69. ''You have to be careful on the downhillers.''

Most tournaments, professional tours and courses use a measuring device called a stimpmeter to determine the speed of greens. According to the U.S. Golf Association, Edward S. Stimpson, the 1935 Massachusetts Amateur champion, invented a device to determine a number which represents the relative speed of a ball on a putting green.

It's an aluminum bar, 36 inches long, with a V-shaped groove from top to bottom. When a ball is placed in the groove and the bar is at a certain angle, it rolls down and the distance it travels can be measured. A fast green on a public course might measure a 10 on the eponymous stimpmeter. Major championship greens edge toward a 13 or 14.

The numbers can be used to reflect how fast a ball rolls on a green.

''On Tuesday they were like 12 1/2 and they're trying to get them to 13 1/2 or 14,'' Scott Piercy said after shooting a 66. ''They've got some speed to them.''

Tiger Woods has played well all over the world on all types and speeds of greens, particularly ones that are akin to a marble table top. He recognizes that the Memorial, set up to the standards of 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, strains to meet or exceed the pace that players will see on the greens at Merion in the U.S. Open in two weeks.

''Last year they stimped it in the morning at 14 on Sunday,'' Woods said before the tournament. ''And I can tell you that it wasn't 14 when we played. It was faster than 14. Jack has it right there where he wants it now. And if we get the weather to hold up and no storms, it will be one hell of a test.''

SPEAKING OF WHICH: The weather report for the remainder of the week includes temperatures in the high 70s and mid-80s with a 50 percent chance of rain Friday and Saturday afternoons. Sunday will be cloudy with thunderstorms likely through the morning hours.

QUOTABLE: Woods bogeyed the last hole to shoot a 1-under 71, one shot worse than 53-year-old playing partner Fred Couples.

Asked how Couples played, Woods replied, ''Kicked my (butt).''

When a reporter added that teen amateur Guan Tianlang was then ahead of him on the leaderboard, Woods smiled and said, ''Perfect! Perfect!''

Still grinning, he waved and headed for the door while saying, ''Have a good one, guys.''

CELL PHONE PATROL: A year after Phil Mickelson was frustrated by the distractions of cell phones clicking and ringing in the galleries, the Memorial Tournament had bands of volunteers accompanying the marquee groups during the first round to prevent a recurrence.

Tournament director Dan Sullivan said eight people dressed in light-blue shirts went out with the four most popular threesomes, plus there was heightened awareness among marshals on every hole. Each of the volunteers carried paddles which said, ''Please! No phones, videos or pictures!''

''The sense I got was that it was nice and calm out there today – the early rounds especially,'' Sullivan said. ''I'll have to get some more details on how it was for Tiger's group, but I didn't get any emergency notices.''

RORY'S ADVENTURE: Heading into the 38th Memorial Tournament, Rory McIlroy was in a good place.

''I feel like the golf course sets up well for me. You can stand up and be aggressive off the tee,'' he said. ''It's a good golf course, a golf course that I really enjoy playing and one that I feel I can do well on.''

That was then, before he shot a 6-over 78 in Thursday's opening round.

Among the many lowlights on his card was a four-putt, double-bogey 5 at the signature 13th hole. He hit his iron to the back left edge of the green and faced a 58-foot birdie putt that he left 12-feet short. Then he ran a 3-foot putt past the hole and hit the come-backer.

The world's No. 2 player sounded calm after the round.

''The last four weeks have been the same,'' he said. ''I've missed a lot of short putts. It's probably lack of confidence more than anything else. Those are the sort of putts that are important to keep the momentum of the round going. And they're the putts that I'm not making.''

McIlroy had started out fast. He birdied the difficult 10th. But the double at 12 was followed by bogeys at 13, 16 and 18 and he turned in 40 before picking up three more bogeys against one birdie on the front side.

Just two weeks away from the U.S. Open, McIlroy is still searching for answers.

''I'm pretty frustrated. I'm trying not to let it get to me,'' he said. ''A few bad rounds of golf isn't going to ruin anything. But I'd definitely like to start playing (well). I don't really have any explanations for this.''

FREDDIE AND BARACK: As captain of the U.S. side in the Presidents Cup, which will be played in October at Muirfield Village, Fred Couples was invited to the White House on Wednesday. Joining him in meeting with President Obama were International team captain Nick Price, Price's wife and Couples' girlfriend.

''We got to spend 20 minutes with (the President) in his busy schedule,'' Couples said.

After a brief chat and a photo op, Couples even tapped a few putts on the White House putting green.

Couples and Price asked Obama if he could attend the Presidents Cup, to be held Oct. 3-6.

''We asked him to come here in October and he said he couldn't,'' Couples said. ''And we asked him again and he said he couldn't do it. We said we'd check in a couple of months from now.''

The pros didn't offer any advice to the President, on golf or any other subject.

''No, no tips,'' Couples said. ''He had a couple of funny stories. It was really a very special 20 minutes.''

DIVOTS: Greg Chalmers played 17 holes in 2 over but had a quadruple-bogey 8 on one, hitting his drive on No. 3 into the creek running along the left side of the fairway and then slowly chopping his way through deep rough until he finally got to the green. ... As he came to the 18th green, Couples was introduced. His 15 PGA Tour wins were mentioned, as was being on the U.S. Ryder and Presidents Cup teams five times and that he was captain of the American side in October at the Presidents Cup. Someone forgot to mention he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame three weeks ago. ... Nick Watney, who had only the third albatross in U.S. Open history a year ago while finishing in a tied for 21st, didn't exactly tune-up in style for Merion in two weeks. He had triple- and double-bogeys and no birdies in a round of 82 that left him last in the field.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.