DUBLIN, Ohio – Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese amateur, continues to add to his scrapbook of incredible feats.
The eighth-grader shot an even-par 72 on Thursday in the opening round of the Memorial Tournament on one of the toughest and most respected courses on the PGA Tour, Muirfield Village.
"I think I played a pretty good round today," he said. "It's a pretty tough course. The greens got pretty bumpy in the afternoon."
Playing in one of the final groups of the day, Guan turned in 2 under and bogeyed two of the final three holes.
He burst onto the scene in April when he became the youngest player ever to make the cut at a major championship while finishing 58th at the Masters. He also made the cut in New Orleans.
"After the Masters and a couple of PGA Tour events, I guess I got more comfortable with it," he said when asked how a teenager could avoid being overwhelmed. "It's helped a lot the first couple of events I played."
He has no plans to leave early, either.
"A couple under would be great," he said of his goal in the second round. "I'm planning to make the cut if I hit a couple under."
FAST AND FURIOUS: The club logo at Muirfield Village is not a greenskeeper squeegeeing a putting surface.
In 146 rounds over the last 37 years coming into this year's Memorial Tournament, 39 have been delayed, interrupted or canceled by inclement weather. That's about one round per year.
Despite a cool spring, the course is relatively fast and dry — just the way tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus prefers it.
The greens have been like, well, lightning.
"The greens are really tough," said Michael Thompson, who put up an early 69. "You have to be careful on the downhillers."
Most tournaments, professional tours and courses use a measuring device called a stimpmeter to determine the speed of greens. According to the U.S. Golf Association, Edward S. Stimpson, the 1935 Massachusetts Amateur champion, invented a device to determine a number which represents the relative speed of a ball on a putting green.
It's an aluminum bar, 36 inches long, with a V-shaped groove from top to bottom. When a ball is placed in the groove and the bar is at a certain angle, it rolls down and the distance it travels can be measured. A fast green on a public course might measure a 10 on the eponymous stimpmeter. Major championship greens edge toward a 13 or 14.
The numbers allow can be used to reflect how fast a ball rolls on a green.
"On Tuesday they were like 12½ and they're trying to get them to 13½ or 14," Scott Piercy said after shooting a 66. "They've got some speed to them."
Tiger Woods has played well all over the world on all types and speeds of greens, particularly ones that are akin to a marble table top. He recognizes that the Memorial, set up to the standards of 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, strains to meet or exceed the pace that players will see on the greens at Merion in the U.S. Open in two weeks.
"Last year they stimped it in the morning at 14 on Sunday," Woods said before the tournament. "And I can tell you that it wasn't 14 when we played. It was faster than 14. Jack has it right there where he wants it now. And if we get the weather to hold up and no storms, it will be one hell of a test."
SPEAKING OF WHICH: The weather report for the remainder of the week includes temperatures in the high 70s and mid-80s with a 50 percent chance of rain Friday and Saturday afternoons. Sunday will be cloudy with thunderstorms likely through the morning hours.
QUOTABLE: Woods bogeyed the last hole to shoot a 1-under 71, one shot worse than 53-year-old playing partner Fred Couples.
Asked how Couples played, Woods replied, "Kicked my (butt)."
When a reporter added that teen amateur Guan Tianlang was then ahead of him on the leaderboard, Woods smiled and said, "Perfect! Perfect!"
Still grinning, he waved and headed for the door while saying, "Have a good one, guys."
CELL-PHONE PATROL: A year after Phil Mickelson was frustrated by the distractions of cell phones clicking and ringing in the galleries, the Memorial Tournament had bands of volunteers accompanying the marquee groups during the first round to prevent a recurrence.
Tournament director Dan Sullivan said eight people dressed in light-blue shirts went out with the four most popular threesomes, plus there was heightened awareness among marshals on every hole. Each of the volunteers carried paddles which said, "Please! No phones, videos or pictures!"
"The sense I got was that it was nice and calm out there today — the early rounds especially," Sullivan said. "I'll have to get some more details on how it was for Tiger's group, but I didn't get any emergency notices."
RORY'S ADVENTURE: Heading into the 38th Memorial Tournament, Rory McIlroy was in a good place.
"I feel like the golf course sets up well for me. You can stand up and be aggressive off the tee," he said. "It's a good golf course, a golf course that I really enjoy playing and one that I feel I can do well on."
That was then, before he shot a 6-over 78 in Thursday's opening round.
Among the many lowlights on his card was a four-putt, double-bogey 5 at the signature 13th hole. He hit his iron to the back left edge of the green and faced a 58-foot birdie putt that he left 12-feet short. Then he ran a 3-foot putt past the hole and hit the comebacker.
The world's No. 2 player sounded after the round.
"The last four weeks have been the same," he said. "I've missed a lot of short putts. It's probably lack of confidence more than anything else. Those are the sort of putts that are important to keep the momentum of the round going. And they're the putts that I'm not making."
McIlroy had started out fast. He birdied the difficult 10th. But the double at 12 was followed by bogeys at 13, 16 and 18 and he turned in 40 before picking up three more bogeys against one birdie on the front side.
Just two weeks away from the U.S. Open, McIlroy is still searching for answers.
"I'm pretty frustrated. I'm trying not to let it get to me," he said. "A few bad rounds of golf isn't going to ruin anything. But I'd definitely like to start playing (well). I don't really have any explanations for this."
FREDDIE AND BARACK: As captain of the U.S. side in the Presidents Cup, which will be played in October at Muirfield Village, Fred Couples was invited to the White House on Wednesday. Joining him in meeting with President Obama were International team captain Nick Price, Price's wife and Couples' girlfriend.
"We got to spend 20 minutes with (the President) in his busy schedule," Couples said.
After a brief chat and a photo op, Couples even tapped a few putts on the White House putting green.
Couples and Price asked Obama if he could attend the Presidents Cup, to be held Oct. 3-6.
"We asked him to come here in October and he said he couldn't," Couples said. "And we asked him again and he said he couldn't do it. We said we'd check in a couple of months from now."
The pros didn't offer any advice to the President, on golf or any other subject.
"No, no tips," Couples said. "He had a couple of funny stories. It was really a very special 20 minutes."
DIVOTS: Greg Chalmers played 17 holes in 2 over but had a quadruple-bogey 8 on one, hitting his drive on No. 3 into the creek running along the left side of the fairway and then slowly chopping his way through deep rough until he finally got to the green. ... As he came to the 18th green, Couples was introduced. His 15 PGA Tour wins were mentioned, as was being on the U.S. Ryder and Presidents Cup teams five times and that he was captain of the American side in October at the Presidents Cup. Someone forgot to mention he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame three weeks ago. ... Nick Watney, who had only the third albatross in U.S. Open history a year ago while finishing in a tiedfor 21st, didn't exactly tune up in style for Merion in two weeks. He had triple- and double-bogeys and no birdies in a round of 82 that left him last in the field.
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