A record round

Wen-Chong Liang is used to being a trailblazer for golf back in his native China. He gave his nation something else to be proud of Saturday when he played Whistling Straits in an unprecedented 64 strokes.


A new and improved swing left Wen-Chong Liang in great position for birdies on many of the greens Saturday. (Getty Images)

By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

KOHLER, Wis. -- His old swing was good enough to earn Wen-Chong Liang an invitation to the 2007 PGA Championship and help him become the No. 1-ranked player on the Asian Tour. His new and improved swing was good enough Saturday to set a competitive course record at Whistling Straits and thrust him into contention at the 92nd PGA Championship.

Liang, a native of China, began on the back nine and birdied five holes to make the turn in 31. His momentum slowed a bit on the front, but he still finished in 33, giving him a 64. It was the best score recorded at the PGA Championship since Thomas Bjorn shot a 63 in 2005 at Baltusrol.

"After I made the cut yesterday, I feel much more relaxed," Liang said through interpreter David Lee. "I was able to play the back nine and it started well. So that started building the confidence. Also today the driving, the putting and all very well, and so it makes the whole round very good."

His swing was rebuilt with the help of Australian coach Kel Llewellyn, who changed it from a baseball-type swing to a more orthodox golf swing. Llewellyn completely broke down Liang's swing and started over, giving him a new stance, new grip, new takeaway, and new downswing. The only thing that stayed the same was the way Liang wears his hat.

"I really want to take the opportunity to thank my coach, who has been working with me for the past three years, to change my swing, so now I'm more relaxed and very comfortable with my swing," Liang said. "And the other thing is I know how to remain calm, not let the major pressure get to me. So I am able to perform very, very well today."

It's not the first time he's dabbled with a low score.  In 2008 he set a Indian Open record by shooting 60 in the opening round and went on to win the event with birdies on the final two holes. But he said the 64 in the third round of the PGA Championship was a more significant accomplishment.

"Both rounds are very, very special to me, but this is special, besides the score, because this is a major," he said. "And also it makes people realize that there are actually professional golfers in China. So this is a very special round."

Liang was born in Zhongshan, the site of the country's first golf course, which Arnold Palmer designed and opened in 1984. He began to play when he 15 and soon became good enough to represent China in the World Cup. Considered a second-generation golfer, Liang won seven times on the China Tour and picked up a prestigious victory on the European Tour in 2007.

"As I started playing on a different tour and saw the different level of play, then I found out that there is more out there and I can learn and then eventually I found Kel Llewellyn," he said. "As the game grows in China, we also welcome good coaches to come to China and teach us."

Liang has played three times on the PGA TOUR this year, making the cut twice and tying for 25th at the Sony Open. He primarily competes on the European Tour, where he's made the cut in six of seven tournaments and has a season-best tie for 17th at the Volvo China Open.