Guan makes history after second-round 69

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2013, 8:53 pm

AVONDALE, La. – For another piece of history, Guan Tianlang first needed to navigate the watery, par-3 ninth hole at TPC Louisiana. Over and over he wiped his hands with a towel, rubbing in between his fingers, as he waited to play. His fellow playing competitor had just hooked his tee shot into the water. Guan gulped, then kept wiping.

Up next, the 14-year-old from China grabbed his 23-degree hybrid, imagined the shot he wanted to pull off – a baby, 2-yard draw – and made his normal long and languid swing. Knowing he was hovering near the cut line, Guan simply wanted to find the center of the green on the 179-yard hole. But his tee shot sailed high, with that baby, 2-yard draw, and suddenly it was covering the flagstick, just four paces from the water. When the ball finally settled 25 feet behind the cup, he calmly returned the club to his caddie and smiled. 

Afterward, when asked if he was nervous over that decisive tee ball, he shrugged and said, “Not much.”

Zurich Classic: Articles, videos and photos

Guan Tianlang: Articles, videos and photos

With another mind-boggling performance on a long (7,425 yards) and soggy course, Guan carded five birdies (and a par on that ninth hole) during a second-round 69 that assured he’d stick around for the weekend at the Zurich Classic. When he finished his round, he was tied for 44th at 3-under 141, which ended up being the cut number. The low 70 and ties advance.

Said Justin Bolli, who was grouped with Guan for the first two rounds: “I mean, he just looked like one of us out there.”

Except, of course, for the chapped lips, the absence of pores or facial hair, the undeveloped body. 

At 14 years, 6 months and 1 day, Guan will become the youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event, surpassing the previous modern-day record (Bob Panasik, 1957 Canadian Open) by more than a year. 

This, of course, after he became one of the central figures of the Masters, where he was docked a slow-play penalty in the second round and still qualified for the weekend, eventually finishing T-58. 

“It’s unreal. He just goes out there like it’s his 15th year (on Tour),” said Henrik Norlander, the third member in Guan’s group. “He doesn’t care. He hits his shots and doesn’t care about the surroundings. I wish I could be like him.”

Not surprisingly, news spread quickly of Guan’s historic achievement.

Tweeted Paul Tesori, caddie for reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson: “Are you kidding me with this 14yr old phenom Guan Tianlang? The course is wet and playing LONG! How is it possible? #hellofutureofgolf”

Wrote swing coach Butch Harmon: “Can you believe 14 year old T. Guan has 69 today to make yet another cut at 141. This is truly an amazing thing. Congrats young man.”

Added Morgan Hoffmann, at 23 no elder statesman himself: “John Peterson and I were talking about it, and I said, ‘I hope (Guan) understands what he’s doing, because everybody out here is following him.’”

Detractors will say that Guan isn’t playing for a paycheck, that he didn’t have anything to lose, that the result would be different if he weren’t playing for fun or the learning experience. Maybe so.

But neither was 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam, who played the Colonial in 2003. And even one of the best women’s players of all time couldn’t play the weekend at a PGA Tour event. It’s no simple task.

So how could Guan do it – twice, no less?

The teen averaged 262 yards off the tee, but he missed only two fairways Friday. 

He hit 11 greens, but took just 25 putts.

For the week, he is 30 of 32 from inside 10 feet, though he did three-jack the 14th hole, something he didn’t do all week at Augusta National.

Two holes later, it should be noted, the kid rebounded with a birdie. 

When his tee shot at the long sixth found the water left, he hit a 3-wood to the front edge, then sank a 12-foot bogey putt.

On the par-3 third, which played 234 yards, Guan hit a 3-wood that horseshoed around the cup.

“He just hits it so accurately,” Bolli said. “He hits 3-woods and 5-woods to 10 feet. If you can do that, you can play anywhere.”

Said Norlander, “He’s better off with hybrids and woods than 6-iron because he can hit it so high and they come in so soft. He has unbelievable face control. Nothing is off-line. He can work the ball, too.

“There are a lot of good kids, but the way he handles himself impressed me the most. He could have gone out and shot 80-80 and everyone would think it’s cool anyways. He has nothing to lose. He just goes out and plays his game.”

Guan’s stay in New Orleans already was scheduled to last a little longer, even before this 72-69 start at the Zurich. He will play next month’s U.S. Open local qualifier in Dallas, proving yet again that there must be very accommodating schoolteachers in China.

Now, though, his biggest concern may not be chasing down leader Lucas Glover but what to wear for the final two rounds. On Friday, he wore a green striped Masters shirt and Masters logo cap. He’s been in the States for nearly two months.

Asked if he has enough Masters gear to make it through the weekend, the kid smiled and said, fittingly: “No. They don’t have enough small sizes.”

Getty Images

McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy hits spectator on hand

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 2:58 pm

We never cease to wonder at how close fans crowd in to the intended line of some shots, and just how skilled Tour players are in not hitting someone.

But every once in a while, golf ball and spectator intersect, with painful results. It happened to Rory McIlroy during the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, after he had hit a wayward drive on the sixth hole. Attempting to hack out his second shot from under a bush, McIlroy struck a female spectator on her right hand. There was no official word on her condition, but she was clearly - and understandably - in pain.

McIlroy went on to make double bogey but was able to put the incident behind him, as he promptly birdied the next hole.

Getty Images

Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

Getty Images

Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''