April 11 2013
Teenager Guan Tianlang from China drew a big crowd during Thursday's first round. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China, ended his historic opening round at the Masters with a bang, as he rolled in a long birdie putt for a 1-over 73 at Augusta National.
The birdie putt even had playing partner, 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw, applauding. And it wasn't the first time the two-time Masters champ showed his support. Crenshaw also applauded Guan's chip shot at the sixth that helped him save par.
"I'm telling you, he played like a veteran today," Crenshaw said. "... He played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself, he's very confident, and obviously beautiful hands. His thought process never got rushed, very patient.
"Very, very, very impressive."
Guan, the youngest player to appear in a major championship, recorded the lowest score of any of the six amateurs in the field. If he remains the low amateur and makes the cut, he would appear in Butler Cabin with the champion after play concludes on Sunday.
But Guan said his expectations will not change despite the solid start.
"The main thing is just enjoy the tournament," he said, "and have some fun."
It's safe to say that Guan's round was the most impressive round above par on the day.
"There's no real words to describe it," said 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman, who watched Guan's final putt on TV. "Pretty incredible to shoot 1 over today as a 14-year-old."
Guan said he felt comfortable Thursday morning but was nervous on the first tee. He opened his round with a bogey, then posted his first birdie at the par-4 third. He suffered two more bogeys before making the turn. He birdied the 10th and 13th holes to counteract bogeys at 11 and 14 before ending his round on a high note.
Guan hit just 8 of 18 greens in regulation and averaged 275 yards off the tee, but his putter helped bail him out, as he needed just 25 putts.
"Obviously not having that much distance, he needs to keep the ball in play, and he's done that well," said his other playing partner, 19-year-old Matteo Manassero. "He's made some nice putts and he recovered well. I think 1 over was a good score for him.
"But you can see he can do that tomorrow again without any problem."
Crenshaw said he didn't see any sign of nerves from the teenager. "He stuck right to his plan the whole day," Crenshaw said. "Didn't get rattled. Really wonderful to see."
And how would Guan describe his day?
"Like a dream come true," he said.