Guan Tianlang, USA Today Sports
Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
Augusta, GA-- He had hit it in an impossible spot; a place behind the sixth green at Augusta National where a seasoned pro would know not to venture. But Guan Tianlang isn't a seasoned pro. He's 14 years old, doing something Thursday nobody his age had ever done before in the history of golf.
And if there was ever a moment where it all might have unraveled for Guan, the native of China who won his entry into the Masters via the Asia-Pacific Amateur, it was right there in the fishbowl ampitheater of the sixth green, with thousand of fans watching from above and below and a situation that seemed like a sure bogey or worse.
But even with a back pin placement and a green sloping severely away from him, Guan didn't panic. He walked up and down the hill in front of him, surveying everything, consulting with his caddie who has worked at this course for a decade. After all that, he took his stance, rocked his 60-degree wedge back, executed a soft follow-through, landed his ball just on the fringe and watched it stop inches from the cup for a tap-in par.
If anyone could appreciate the difficulty of that shot, it was playing partner Ben Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champion considered one of the best ever around the greens. So as Guan went to mark his ball after that perfectly executed chip, Crenshaw held out his palms and looked to the sky, as if to say: "Did I really just watch a 14-year old pull off that shot?"
"He did it a few more times, too," said Crenshaw, now 61. "I'm telling you, he played like a veteran today."
LEADERBOARD: Masters Round 1
Ever since Tiger Woods burst into our national consciousness, golf has become a sport where teenagers regularly do spectacular things. Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Matteo Manassero and even Ty Tryon, who never made it on the PGA Tour, were stars before their 20th birthdays.
But Guan is an eighth grader from Guangzhou who shot 73 on Thursday, turning in a first-round score lower than players ranked No. 6 (Louis Oosthuizen), No. 12 (Ian Poulter) and No. 23 (Nick Watney) in the world. He beat last year's Masters champion, Bubba Watson, by two shots. And as soon as Guan drilled a 15-footer from the fringe on 18, golf had a new star ready to take on history.
"I want to win a major," Guan said. "And hopefully I can win the four majors in one year."
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