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May 30 2013

8:51 PM

Short game powers Guan to 72

Guan Tianlang, 14, needed just 27 putts on Thursday at Muirfield Village. (Lyons/Getty Images)

By Larry Dorman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Making his fourth PGA TOUR start of 2013, the talented 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang continued to impress by learning from his mistakes.

Undaunted by the speedy greens right up until the 18th hole – where he misjudged his 50-footer for birdie and putted it off the green – Guan managed the difficult Muirfield Village course en route to even-par 72.

The imperturbable eighth-grader from Guangzhou, China, was not unduly rattled by the slip-up at 18. He simply dead-handed a pitch with his fourth shot to within 2 feet for an easy tap-in bogey. 

“I think I still did a pretty good job, though,” said Guan, who has shot par or better four times in 11 rounds and made two of three cuts since his U.S. playing debut at the Masters in April – where he became the youngest player in PGA TOUR history to make a cut.

Much as he did at Augusta National, and when making the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks later, Guan employed an advanced grasp of course management and high-level short game to offset his lack of distance off the tee. He saved par three of four times from Muirfield’s deep greenside bunkers, took 27 putts and had just one three-putt.

Perhaps his best up-and-down came when he was bunkered above the hole at No. 9, facing a very slick shot of 45 feet down a slope. Though his ball rolled 9 feet past the hole despite his effort to kill the speed with a risky bunker explosion into the fringe, Guan rolled the par putt right in the middle to go out in 34 and remain in a tie for 13th at the time. Tied for 41st with 16 players, Guan has a good chance to make another cut.

He decided against using the fringe to slow his nearly unstoppable putt at the 18th, but after what happened he knew what he should have done.

“Right now I’m thinking probably the first cut or even chip it,” he said.

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