Zhang youngest to ever play U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 12, 2012, 9:17 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – “I was trying to break 90,” said Matt Kuchar on Tuesday at The Olympic Club when asked what he was doing when he was 14 years old.

Just two years into a golf career that would blossom into multiple PGA Tour wins, a Players and U.S. Amateur title and undisputed status as one of America’s most consistent performers, the one thing Kuchar was not thinking of when he was 14 was the grind of golf’s toughest test.

Ditto for Mark Wilson. “I was hoping to break 80 in my club championship,” explained the five-time Tour winner.

Gary Woodland was focused on sport of many varieties but just not golf.

“Baseball, basketball, girls . . . I was definitely not thinking about this,” Woodland said with a wave of his hand as he prepared to play in his fourth U.S. Open early Tuesday.

Even Tiger Woods, the prototype of the modern prodigy, who accomplished junior golf’s version of the Triple Crown when he won three consecutive U.S. Junior titles, didn’t consider himself Open ready at the tender age of 14.

Video: Meet Andy Zhang

“I tried (qualifying for the U.S. Open) when I was 15, but he earned the spot,” Woods figured.

That’s high praise for Andy Zhang, who on Monday with news that Paul Casey was still nursing a broken body would, become the youngest player to compete in the national championship.

The IMG Golf Academy product by way of China has already made history, albeit not in the way he initially imagined.

Zhang finished 36 holes of qualifying last Monday at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla., which is precisely 30 minutes from “Podunk” and just around the corner from the middle of nowhere, with rounds of 72-70 and seemingly lost his bid for history on the first extra hole when he failed to match Brooks Koepka’s birdie.

A week later as the injuries mounted and the dominoes tumbled Zhang’s moment arrived when first Brandt Snedeker withdrew followed within minutes of news of Casey’s early exit.

“If you want to play you’re in,” the U.S. Golf Association official informed Zhang as the teen nervously hit putts on Olympic’s practice green.

“I was trying to act cool, but after I got the news I started screaming and hugging my mom,” Zhang professed.

Typical 14 year old . . . or maybe not.

Among the game’s most well-heeled Zhang has already etched his name into the record book, clipping Tadd Fujikawa, who played the 2006 U.S. Open at the age of 15 years, five months, by more than a year.

For players whose careers are the standard that all young hopefuls measure success, it is as remarkable as it is memorable.

“That’s quite amazing,” Kuchar gushed. “A 14-year-old playing a course like this. I think that a course like this takes so much mental strength . . . I’m certainly excited to see how he does.”

Amazing? Sure. Unthinkable? Not really.

At least not for those who have watched golf’s traditional bell curve trend younger, mirroring the evolution of other sports.

Michelle Wie, for all her competitive lapses, qualified for the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links at 10, became the youngest player to make a cut in an LPGA event at 13 – a major, no less – and by 14 had finished inside the top 20 in six of seven professional starts.

In 2008 Danny Lee became the youngest player to win the U.S. Amateur at 18 years old, and he later become the youngest to ever win a European Tour event (2009 Johnnie Walker Classic). The next summer An Byeong-hun topped him when he won the U.S. Amateur at 17.

In short, 17 is the new 37, at least when it comes to golf.

For astute observers it was just a matter of time before a phenom like Zhang crashed through the notion that experience, almost as much as talent, was a prerequisite for success at the game’s highest levels.

“As soon as I heard I knew he was Asian,” said Dale Lynch, Aaron Baddeley’s swing coach who walked Tuesday’s practice round with Zhang. “We have a junior at our academy who showed up when he was 12 and he has an unbelievable work ethic and is so focused.”

And Lynch knows his phenoms. He first began coaching Baddeley at the venerable Victoria Institute of Sport in Australia and watched his meteoric rise onto the world stage. But not even Badds could say he was Open ready at 14.

“He’d just won his club championship at 15 (when Baddeley arrived at the VIS) and that was something,” said Lynch, who compared Zhang’s powerful action to that of Rory McIlroy. “Now, (Zhang is) here at 14. It’s amazing.”

Yet as Wie has proven, adolescent success and professional accomplishments are very much mutually exclusive. Today’s phenom is not always tomorrow’s star, but as Zhang made his way around Olympic Club’s Lake Course on Tuesday, the possibilities – and his future – seemed limitless.

Not that the 14-year-old has any interest in what awaits beyond this week. In fact, when asked whether he was able to comprehend what he had accomplished, Zhang simply shrugged, “Nobody’s done it before.”

Not Kuchar, not Wilson, not Woodland, not even Woods. Amazing indeed.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: