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.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.