Notes: Guan to hang around Texas a while
Two tournaments, two cuts made for 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, who played four rounds at the Masters and at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. And for that success, Guan has earned another chance, accepting a sponsor exemption into the HP Byron Nelson Championship on May 16-19.
"What Guan has been able to accomplish at such a young age is very impressive,” tournament chairman Mike McKinley said. “We have always had a tradition of identifying young talent and giving them an opportunity to compete at the Nelson, and we look forward to continuing that with Guan."
McKinley’s words have substance when you consider that Jordan Spieth threatened to win the Nelson a few years ago after the then-Dallas high-schooler was given a sponsor exemption. No surprise, given the way he has played since turning pro earlier this year, but Spieth has another invite this year. Only thing is, at 19 he’ll not even be close to being the youngest competitor this time.
While the youngster from China did make two cuts, he no doubt got worn down by playing two long courses with all those hybrids and fairway woods. Guan is just 1 over on his four Thursday and Friday rounds, but 15 over on his weekend efforts.
The Dallas invite makes sense from a travel standpoint, too. When the Nelson concludes, Guan will remain in that area because he’s down for a June 3 U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. He’s exempt through local qualifying by virtue of his victory in the Asia-Pacific Amateur.
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OH, BROTHER GETS THE BIG BUCKS: Nicholas Thompson and sister Lexi can compare notes when it comes to playing golf and how to manage a course. But when it comes to their rewards, well, there really isn’t anything to compare. Nicholas’ PGA Tour returns simply dwarf sister Lexi’s LPGA Tour efforts.
Consider that the 30-year-old brother has earned just one top-10 finish in nine cuts made, not much different than the one top 10 in seven cuts made for 18-year-old Lexi.
But whereas Nicholas has earned $395,482, Lexi is at $96,845.
They may be playing the same game, but they’re in different worlds.
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LONG BALL: After a rather quiet start to his first year as a PGA Tour member, Nicolas Colsaerts turned on a bit of the rocket power in New Orleans.
He had his best finish on U.S. soil, a tie for eighth, and can thank his job on the par 5s: The Belgian Bomber was 13 under for the tournament, 10 under on the par 5s.
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REVERSING DIRECTION: In contrast to Billy Horschel, who continued his brilliant play in New Orleans, two players put a dramatic halt to some serious sub-standard play.
First, Bobby Gates. He had missed the cut in each of his first seven tournaments. Dating to last year, that skid had reached 10 in a row. But with a share of fourth, the 27-year-old Gates earned $290,400, the biggest check of his PGA Tour career. Previously, his best finish was joint fifth at the 2011 Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Give Gates credit for taking ownership of the bad form.
“I played absolutely terrible all year, and got some new Callaway equipment and just didn't work hard enough," he said. "I think I took myself for granted and didn't go out and really buckle down. Now it’s just up to me to be confident in it. I think this week went a long way to doing that.”
Next, Aaron Watkins. Having missed the cut in five of six starts, he relied upon a place that seemingly fits him well, TPC Louisiana. This time around, the 30-year-old was joint eighth; his only other top 10 on the PGA Tour was also in New Orleans, a T-7 in 2009.
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ON THE TEE: Playing five shots into a warm spring wind:
• So, if you’re like me, you’re confused. All these cans of deer antler spray ready to be tossed away? Now there may be no need to do so.
• Has Kevin Stadler ever been happy on a golf course?
• USGA and R&A officials talk sternly about slow play. But we’ll believe they’re serious about it when a notable player, and not a teenage amateur or unheralded minitour guy, is penalized.
• Colin Montgomerie nears his 50th birthday, says he’ll play in the Senior Players Championship on June 27-30 in Pittsburgh. Wonder if Monty still has the black outfit he wore in sweltering heat on that other infamous trip to the Pittsburgh area, the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont?
• Heard an official say that “we have 12 very good greens” at Quail Hollow. The noise-makers will suggest that that’s six fewer than they should have. Methinks it’s probably 12 more than guys in the '50s and '60s had.
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TURBULENCE: It’s an old story, but things sure can change in a hurry with this golf business. Latest example: Scott Piercy.
He began the year with two top 10s and four top-15 finishes in six starts, but you could say he has hit a wall.
In his last four starts – Tampa Bay, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Masters, New Orleans – Piercy is 39 over for 10 rounds, and big numbers have been a big problem. He has made nine doubles and three triples in that stretch.
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AND FOR HIM, TOO: Another who is stuck in a bad stretch: Steve Marino.
He has made just one cut during his last six starts. In those 13 rounds, he’s a whopping 50 over par. No surprise, but big numbers have been his downfall, too, as Marino has made 14 doubles in the last 13 rounds, dating back to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
A particular puzzlement has been his play at the par 3s. Yes, he’s made a dozen birdies, which is respectable, but unacceptable is the fact that he has made seven doubles on the short holes during this stretch.
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SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Don’t look now, but Billy Horschel and D.A. Points are serious threats to make the Presidents Cup team.
Horschel began the year 91st in the standings, but is now 13th. Points was 42nd at the beginning of the season, but has climbed to 16th.
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NOT THE SAME: A year ago at this time, Jason Dufner was in the midst of quite a run. He earned his first win at the Zurich Classic, got married while his colleagues played at the Wells Fargo, then came back two weeks later to the HP Byron Nelson Championship and notched win No. 2.
Fast forward a year, and Dufner is perhaps trying to solve a few mysteries in his game. Having ranked third in the all-around category in 2012, Dufner is presently 92nd.
He was third in total driving in 2012, but is presently ranked 41st; whereas he was seventh-best in hitting greens in regulation a year ago, Dufner is 50th.