Thursday was a mixed day of sport for China.
Let’s start with the good: 14-year-old golfer Guan Tianlang – he of Masters fame – looks well on his way to making his third cut in four PGA Tour events this year, playing at the Memorial Tournament at the invitation of Jack Nicklaus. Despite two bogeys in the last three holes, his even-par round of 72 was good enough for =41st place after Round 1. This is a strong field: 20 of the 120 players have one at least one major, and Guan is ahead of 12 of them.
Playing in a decidedly unglamorous grouping with Justin Bolli and Peter Williamson – perhaps surprisingly given the attention he’s drawn at earlier Tour stops – he hit three birdies in his first six holes, before parring the next nine. He also seems to have beefed up a little, hitting his first two drives more than 320 yards.
Tiger Woods, and the resulting crowds, was playing three groups ahead – something that Guan said had inspired him – and he also said his short game bailed him out on a number of occasions. He’ll need to be on top form again today to make the cut, but he’s in a great position to do so. Guan tees off for Round 2 at 8.59am on Friday (8.59pm China time).
Now the bad…
2011 French Open champion Li Na, widely tipped to do well at Roland Garros this year now that she no longer had the pressure and attention of being the defending champion, crashed out to Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 3-6, 2-6 in Round 2 on Thursday. The American is currently ranked 67th in the world, had never beaten Li, losing most recently to her in straight sets on clay just last month. In short, not a good day at the office for the 6th seed and another example of how Li struggles mentally when her opponent ups their game.
Li’s sparkling personality is something that has transformed her into one of the richest sportswomen on the planet, but she’s also known for being pretty spiky with the media.
Li was noticeably frustrated from the outset of her news conference, when she was asked if she had an illness or injury. “Why do you ask me that?” she said. “Because I lose the match?” She went on to say that, no, she wasn’t hurt and, no, she couldn’t use the weather as an excuse. Her collapse to the court and ankle injury in the Australian Open final threw a wrench into what could have been a resurgent season for the 31-year-old.
As the article goes on to say, Li’s greatest achievement so far this season has been making the cover of Time magazine. Zheng Jie is China’s lone survivor in the tournament, after Peng Shuai lost to Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-3. Zheng will likely play no. 2 seed Maria Sharapova in Round 3. Good luck with that.