5 Things: Guan makes another cut; Glover rolls
AVONDALE, La. Lucas Glover is your 36-hole leader of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at 12 under, but he’s almost an afterthought at the moment.
The real story so far is 14-year-old Tianlang Guan backing up his stellar Masters performance with another made cut. He toured TPC Louisiana in 3-under 69 in the second round and enters the weekend T-54. Did we mention he’s just 14? Incredible. Remarkable. Amazing. Take your pick. Before exhausting all the superlatives we know to describe Guan's performance, here are 5 Things You Need To Know.
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1. Guan, 14, Keeps Making History: Guan Tianlang, dressed in a Masters hat and green-and-white striped Masters shirt buttoned to the top, had finished off his round of 69 when he was asked if he had enough Masters gear to wear over the weekend.
“I’m not sure,” he said, “They don’t have enough small size.”
Well, better ask mom to do some laundry tonight. Guan has a Saturday-morning tee time after becoming the youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event – 14 years, 6 months and 1 day – shattering the previous modern-day record by more than a year (Bob Panasik, 1957 Canadian Open).
Guan made five birdies on a rain-soaked, 7,425-yard-long layout that forced him to hit fairway woods and hybrids into several greens. No matter. Guan hit 12 of 14 fairways, averaging 262 yards off the tee. He hit 11 of 18 greens but countered with just 25 putts. What did he make of his round?
“I’m not too surprised,” he said.
Count Justin Rose among the Tour pros who were duly impressed.
“What strikes me is his maturity and the way he’s handling the situation,” Rose said. “He’s doing the right things. He just wants to soak it all in. He’s not putting too much pressure on himself right now. That’s going to be the key for him, is to not let the expectations get carried away.”
Could Rose, who finished T-4 at the 1998 British Open as a 17-year-old, relate to Guan at 14? Rose said at 14 he was a plus-one handicap who won the English Under-16 and Under-18 titles.
“Actually, I think I peaked early,” he joked. “It’s been all downhill from there.”
As for Guan’s goals for the weekend, he said, “Just want to play my best and hope to go a little further.”
When asked if he expected to receive additional sponsor exemptions into Tour events based on his performance, Guan said he wasn’t sure, but he also wasn’t opposed to it. There could be just one problem.
“I have to go back to school,” he said.
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2. Glover is rolling his rock: Nothing in golf tops a confident putting stroke. For Lucas Glover, a hot putter this week was a welcome surprise.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever putted like I have the last two days,” said Glover, who took 25 putts Thursday and did one better Friday.
Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, is battling back from a lost season in which he injured his right knee when he slipped on a paddleboard in Hawaii and a rib injury suffered during the Masters. He missed 10 of 16 cuts in 2012 when he tried to play through the pain. Eventually, Glover shut it down after withdrawing from the Wyndham Championship in late August, and had a meniscus tear repaired.
“I think it was exactly six weeks after surgery I started on wedges, which is pretty quick,” he said.
And what did he do to pass the time during his layoff?
“Nothing. I mean I was on the couch for six weeks,” he said. “A lot of crosswords and TV and boredom, but it was good.”
So far, this season, Glover has shown signs of returning to form. He’s made six of 10 cuts, with his best showing a T-4 at the Honda Classic. During the Florida Swing, his tee to green began to return to Glover’s high standards.
“I knew if I putted well I was close to playing well,” he said. “I mean, I was hitting it as good as I can hit it.”
Until this week, getting the ball in the hole has been a mystery for Glover. He entered the week ranked No. 182 in the Tour’s strokes gained putting statistic. Glover, a three-time winner on Tour, has been working with Dave Stockton Jr. on his putting for the past seven months, and it finally has started to pay off. Glover said he made a few changes last weekend after he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage Classic.
“A little adjustment with my setup, then just kind of got a little more stable on my left side, little more weight left,” he said.
The changes worked at home and again during the Wednesday Pro-Am. There's nothing boring about making 16 birdies through two rounds. It’s safe to say the adjustments are working better than he could’ve imagined. So can he ride his hot putter for two more days?
“I’m not foolish enough to think I’m going to make them all every day,” Glover said. “That’s where patience comes in.”
Take the third hole today. Glover had a 9-footer for birdie and misread it. Glover said he was unfazed by the missed putt, and bounced back with birdies as Nos. 4 and 5.
“So as long as I’m rolling it down the line where I’m looking, that’s all I can do,” he said.
So far, so good.
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3. Boo feeling at fome in the bayou: New Orleans might not count as a true home game for Milton, Fla. native Boo Weekley, but he estimated he had 15 friends and family following him in his gallery and expects more to show up now that he’s on the leaderboard.
“There ain’t no telling,” he said, of how many from his fan club in the Florida Panhandle would make the drive to see him play over the weekend. “At the same time, it’s a little pressure because you want to show your buddies how good you really are.”
After needing a T-5 at the 2012 season finale to keep his card, Weekley has experienced a career resurgence this year. He made his 10th straight cut this week and shot one of the best rounds of the year, a final-round 63 in Tampa to finish second.
“Yeah, I’m getting closer,” he said. “After Houston, I took two weeks off and didn’t even touch a golf club, and that kind of hurts me a little bit the way I like to practice and the way I function with golf.”
You know what didn’t hurt? Holing out from 105 yards for eagle from the fairway on his first hole of the day (the par-4 10th) to jumpstart his round.
“I carry four wedges, and my middle wedge is a 56-degree. I know I can’t hit it no more than 108 yards max,” he explained. “So it was one of those shots that I knew I had the right club. I just had to make the perfect swing, and I made the perfect swing.”
Weekley carded a 68 for a 36-hole total of 133 and trails Glover by one stroke.
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4. Big Easy in contention again in The Big Easy: A year ago, Ernie Els made his first appearance at the Zurich Classic in 10 years and left heartbroken after losing in a sudden-death playoff here. Despite the close call, Els, known as the Big Easy for his smooth swing, enjoyed his trip to The Big Easy enough to book a return, and through 36 holes he’s in the hunt again at 8 under, four strokes off the lead. Els offset six birdies against three bogeys and shot 69 Friday.
“I kind of fought hard all day,” Els said. “I had a couple of real bad holes in the middle of my round. But I tried to stick in there, and obviously that (birdie) on my 18th will bring us back.”
Els' presence Saturday will be felt in more ways than one. The Zurich Classic is showing its support of Els for Autism by designating Saturday’s third round to be the tournament’s “Blue Out” Day as part of Autism Awareness month, and players and fans are encouraged to wear blue to the event.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Bubba Watson shot the low-round of the day, a 65, to vault from outside the cut line into a tie for 11th place. . . . LSU grad John Peterson, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, shot 67 and made his third cut in three starts on the Tour this season, and including the Web.com Tour is now 7-for-7 in cuts made. . . . Billy Horschel extended his cuts-made streak to 23 in a row. . . . Keegan Bradley missed his second cut of the year. . . . Guan, who avoided 3-putting Augusta National's slippery putting surfaces, made his first three-putt in six Tour rounds at the par-3 14th hole. He has yet to make a double bogey. . . . Gary Woodland, who trails Luke List’s Tour-leading 306.1 yards average driving distance by 2.6 yards, is bidding to regain the top spot with a tournament-best average of 308.8 through the first two rounds.