Wenchong making a name for himself outside China

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2010, 5:43 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis.– Golf is not the problem. It’s played the same way in any language. The barriers that players like Liang Wenchong find maddening are a lot less exotic, like finding a dependable place in most towns to get a meal.

A few hours after shooting a course-record 64 Saturday and vaulting within three strokes of the lead at the PGA Championship, Liang and a few friends were already making plans for the 80-mile round trip from their Milwaukee hotel to a suburban Chinese restaurant called Peking House for a modest celebration.

“We learned about the restaurant from reading a story about Yi Jianlian, who used to play for the Milwaukee Bucks,” Liang said through an interpreter. “We’ve been there several times already. It’s very good.

“But yesterday, we finished so late the only place was open was McDonald’s. Either way,” he added, grinning. “is fine.”

Calling Liang adaptable doesn’t tell the half of it. He didn’t start playing golf until age 15, when the first course in China was built in his hometown of Zhongshan and local officials began looking for kids to fill up a golf school.

“I came to it by accident. I had no idea what it could lead to,” Liang said.

But he improved steadily thanks to a regimen of eight-hour workdays and practice sessions, then came under the tutelage of China’s first world-class player, Zhang Lian-wei. By 21, Liang was good enough to turn pro. Since then, he’s taken on a coach, Australian Kel Llewellyn, and won seven times on the China Tour, once in Europe and played in the Masters, British Open and nearly a dozen times on the PGA Tour.

In his only previous shot at the PGA, in 2007 at steamy Southern Hills, Liang failed to make the cut. In three starts this season, his best finish was a tie for 30th at the Memorial two months ago. Needless to say, he didn’t see this coming.

Liang struggled just to make the cut here, but when he locked that up late Friday, he felt like he was playing with house money. Then he started on the easier back nine Saturday, surprised at how well he was driving the ball.

“So that started building the confidence,” he added.

Soon, he was rolling it even better. Liang hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, but his ball-striking was merely solid and his chipping a little better than that. The real key to his scintillating round was on the greens, where he needed only 23 putts. Yet he wasn’t sure even that was his best putting performance. He shot 60 to win an Asian tour event in 2008.

“Both rounds are very, very special to me. But this is special, besides the score, because this is a major. Also, it will make people realize there actually are professional golfers in China,” he said.

A win on Sunday might sound far-fetched, but a lot of people thought the same thing before Korea’s Y.E. Yang took down Tiger Woods at last year’s PGA and became the first Asian golfer to win a major. Liang hasn’t had to face down Woods, but in 2001 “I actually was in very close contact with Tiger,” he said, explaining a moment later that Woods was playing an exhibition in China and he was along as the caddie for his mentor Zhang.

But don’t take that to mean the 32-year-old is awed by the stage, or the other players with whom he’s sharing Whistling Straits. Under Llewellyn’s guidance, Liang rebuilt every part of his swing over the last three years.

“So now I’m more relaxed and very comfortable,” he said. “The other thing is I know to remain calm, not let the major pressure get to me.”

His caddie, Ibrahim Gaus, figures if that pressure was going to get to Liang, it would have happened Saturday as he closed in on the course record.

“He knew,” Gaus said. “He knows exactly what to do with the ball. It was no problem for him.”

Liang was a bit more sanguine about his chances Sunday, but he already knows enough about dealing with the media that he vowed to “take it one shot at a time.”

“I was nervous yesterday on 18, when I was worried about just making the cut. Since then,” he smiled, “I have no negative thoughts.”

The one thing Liang has thought long and hard about is what a major win might mean for golf back in China.

“I think people there would be very surprised and very happy, because there have not been many opportunities for Chinese golfers in the majors,’ he said.

But much like Yao Ming and Yi moving to the NBA raised basketball’s profile back home, Liang is certain a win come Sunday would make him something of a pioneer. And so, when someone asked whether he knew Yi, Liang smiled devilishly and replied, “Maybe the question will be asked whether Yi Jianlian knows me.”

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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