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.”

Getty Images

Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.



Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

View this post on Instagram

Finally got it down lol

A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

View this post on Instagram

How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.