Thirteen-year-old to make European tour history, PGA Tour pros prepare for tough test at Texas Open

Matt Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field in Texas, is coming off a T3 finish at the Masters.
John Biever / SI

The golf ball doesn't care how old you are, especially this week. A 13-year-old, who won last year's Junior World tournament in San Diego by an outlandish 11 shots, will become the youngest player to compete on the European tour at this week's Volvo China Open.
 
Tuesday on the Champions tour, J.C. Snead, 71, blistered a drive more than 300 yards as he and Gibby Gilbert won the Demaret Division (for those 70 and older) at the week-long Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga.
 
The ball doesn't care how famous you are either. Greg Norman's brutal AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, host of the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open, can and will expose and embarrass anyone, regardless of wealth or stature.
 
And the LPGA goes back to Hawaii as Paula Creamer gets to defend a title, sort of, four years later.
 
PGA Tour
The Valero Texas Open, which is celebrating its 90th year, has a weak field with No. 15 Matt Kuchar the highest ranked player there, but a wicked course.
 
The 7,522-yard, AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, which will host the tournament for the third time, is the Tour's toughest par-72 track, playing 1.665 strokes over par in 2011. Kevin Na made his infamous 16 on the par-4 ninth last year. The Greg Norman-designed Oaks is brutally hard on many levels, but it was statistically the hardest place to make putts in 2011. Asked to name the Tour's most vexing greens for an anonymous caddie poll last year, one looper said: "San Antonio's are impossible-the most poorly designed greens ever."
 
Brendan Steele, who prevailed in tough conditions last year, disagrees.
 
"I don't think there's anything about the course that's unfair, even when the wind blows that hard," said Steele, who shot eight under for his first win. "It demands really good shots, and if you don't hit them, you're going to pay the price."
 
Favorites this week also include Charley Hoffman, co-runner-up with Kevin Chappell a year ago; Bud Cauley; K.J. Choi; and Harris English.
 
Valero recently renewed its title sponsorship through 2018. Next year - and possibly only next year -- the tournament is expected to move to the week before the Masters, bumping the Shell Houston Open back one week.
 
Champions tour  
The Legends of Golf features 71 teams playing in three divisions, and the men in the most competitive division, the Legends, are still good enough to make a little money on the PGA Tour. As always, they'll try to perfect their high-fives as they play with a partner. Among the favorites are 2009 winners Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman, whose aborted chest-bump became a cringe-worthy YouTube reel (at least no one was injured); Fred Couples and Jay Haas; Kentuckians Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry; and defending champs David Eger and Mark McNulty.
 
But Legends week is also when real legends like Lee Trevino polish their game for public display again, and you have to give these super-seniors their due. This is as much their tournament as anybody else's. They train for it and in many cases show they still have plenty left in the tank, despite all the dents and scratches.
 
"Gibby couldn't see last year," J.C. Snead, nephew of the late Sam Snead, said Tuesday. "I couldn't see this year. I read all his putts last year, and I've had some eye problems this year, so Gibby was reading my putts."
 
Trailing by four with eight holes to play, Snead and partner Gibby Gilbert shot a best-ball, back-nine 28, for a second-round 59 that forced a playoff with Frank Beard and Larry Ziegler. After Snead's mammoth drive on the first hole of the playoff, he pitched to within six inches of the pin for birdie and the win.
 
"That's right in my cocky zone when it comes to putting," Snead said.
 
He and Gilbert, who also won last year, collected $60,000 apiece. Five-time champions Trevino and Mike Hill, despite taking a two-stroke lead after the first day, finished third, and Trevino admits he's come down with a case of the yips.
 
European tour
At 13 years and 177 days old, Guan Tian-lang will be 107 days younger than Lo Shih-Kai was when he teed it up at the '03 Hong Kong Open. The guys in the Demaret Division have stuff rattling around their golf bags older than that.
 
Guan lost a playoff and finished fourth in the Volvo China Open's mid-China qualifier three weeks ago, and was heartbroken to have missed finishing in the top three for a spot in the field at the Volvo. But it turned out the winner of the qualifier was otherwise exempt into the Volvo, moving the second through fourth finishers up one spot, and giving Guan his place in this week's field.
 
Now he aims to become the youngest player to make the cut in a Euro tour event. He opened with a 63 at the Junior World last year. The kid's got game.
 
LPGA
Top-ranked Yani Tseng is the favorite at this week's inaugural LPGA Lotte Championship Presented by J. Golf at Ko Olina Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii.
 
Paula Creamer is the defending champion -- sort of.
 
The 72-hole Lotte, which will end Saturday, represents the LPGA's return to a course where it hosted events from 1990 to '95 and 2006 to '08. Creamer won the '08 event, beating Jeong Jang by a stroke, and she's in the field this week. She could use a W -- her last victory came at the 2010 U.S. Women's Open.
 
Others in the field include Stacy Lewis, plus I.K. Kim and Sun Young Yoo, the two playoff protagonists at the recent Kraft Nabisco.
 
This week marks the start of a three-year run for the Lotte.

 

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