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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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.