Sports / Golf

Liang swinging with the stars from open to open

By Tym Glaser (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-02 07:53

A timely victory in Japan paved the way for Chinese groundbreaker and now he is enjoying back-to-back majors

Liang Wenchong's 2015 Open odyssey will continue in a couple of weeks' time when he plugs his tee into the hallowed turf of St. Andrews for the opening round of the 144th British Open.

Thanks to a five-stroke victory at the Japan Golf Tour Championship earlier this month, China's groundbreaking golfer earned tee-off times (and $29,000) at the US and British Opens.

At the much-maligned Chambers Bay course near Seattle, Washington, the first Chinese male player to crack the world top 100 and make the cut at a major flirted with the cutline for most of the second round before a double bogey at his 15th hole (six on the front nine) and a bogey a hole later scuttled his plans of weekend play as he missed the five-under mark by two strokes.

While disappointed he did not get the chance to play another 36 holes at the links-type course near Puget Sound, Liang believes the experience gained at his eighth major will hold him in good stead for the daddy of them all, the British Open.

"I felt I played well there. During that second round I did not know the cutline, I just focused on my game and tried to play very well, and I did - except for a few putts that were not ideal," Liang said in Shanghai last week as he promoted the R&A's latest rules videos for the Chinese market.

"It was my second time playing at the US Open and it was different from last year. This time I had more confidence and felt better playing the game. The first time (at Pinehurst No 2, North Carolina) I was nervous," he said through a translator.

"I didn't have so much pressure this time because I had just won a big tournament in Japan and now have an exemption there for five years. I just enjoyed the experience and I think I did a very good job."

Chambers Bay, and its seemingly unreadable greens, came in for massive criticism from players and commentators alike but Liang took the course's challenges in his stride.

"The course was quite different from other US Open courses. It was more like links. The fairways were quite wide, which favored the big hitters like Dustin Johnson who could go over a lot of hazards.

"Some people complained about the greens but I just felt we all had to play on them and they did not bother me all that much."

Despite the stark differences between Chambers Bay and St. Andrews, the 36-year-old believes the US event has tuned his game nicely for his coming Scotland adventure.

"I learned more about my game (at the US Open) and believe, if I prepare properly, I can perform well at the British Open. I feel my game is getting better and better."

Liang is no stranger to St. Andrews and its relatively tight fairways, deep rough and pot bunkers, having played there twice before - including in the Dunhill Cup and as one of The R&A's three ambassadors (Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Norway's Suzann Petterson are the others), but not in an Open and its pressure-cooker-like atmosphere.

"I am excited to play there again. It's the home of golf and I am thrilled to take part in this event and I obviously want to play well.

"As a professional golfer I hope I can do well. I hope my playing in the Opens, the big events, will inspire the young golfers (of China). Not many people get the chance to play the big events; I have had the chance to play in the four major events and hope I can give them something to strive for ... a higher objective."

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