CHINESE 14-year-old Tianlang Guan celebrated becoming the youngest player to tee up in the Masters by outscoring defending champion Bubba Watson and a posse of other major winners in the first round in Georgia.
Showing an extraordinary calmness for someone so young, Guan recovered from a dropped shot at the first to card a one-over-par 73 in yesterday’s opening round – two less than last year’s winner Watson.
“I felt a little bit nervous on the first tee but hit a great shot and after that I felt comfortable,” said Guan, who earned his place in the season’s opening major after winning last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
He bagged four birdies, including one at the last, in the company of former champion Ben Crenshaw and Italian Matteo Manassero.
Asked if he felt he could build on his start by going on to win this week’s event, Guan said: “Probably not this year, but I think I can win in the
future. I want to win a major and hopefully I can win all four majors in one year.”
Only Bobby Jones has achieved that feat, with Tiger Woods having won all four majors but not in the same year.
“It was a dream come true out there. I did a good job today and it was great to hear people rooting for me,” added Guan. “I’m pretty focused on golf and that has enabled me to do pretty well so far. Now I just want to go out and play some more good golf tomorrow.”
Crenshaw, who applauded Guan for a miraculous chip at the sixth, had also played with the teenage prodigy in a practice round. “He gave me a lot of tips in that,” admitted Guan.
His effort left him seven shots off the lead, which was jointly held by Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Australian Marc Leishman after they carded matching 66s. Garcia’s effort contained six birdies while Leishman made his score with a blistering run of four birdies in a row on the back nine.
They are a shot ahead of Dustin Johnson, with a group on 68 including 1992 winner Fred Couples and Trevor Immelman, the champion five years ago. Title favourite Tiger Woods opened with a 70 to sit just outside the top ten while Rory McIlroy had to settle for a 72.
Sandy Lyle, the winner 25 years ago, shot a 73 to be leading Scot after Martin Laird and Paul Lawrie signed for matching 76s.