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Tianlang Guan, 14 years old, plays a 'beautiful round' at Masters

MASTERS NOTES

Guan, from China, the youngest player in Masters history, shoots a one-over 73. He played 'like he's been around the block many, many times,' says Ben Crenshaw.

April 11, 2013|By Brian Hamilton and Teddy Greenstein
  • Tianlang Guan watches his approach shot at No. 12 during the first round of the Masters on Thursday.
Tianlang Guan watches his approach shot at No. 12 during the first round… (Matt Slocum / Associated…)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Up the slope on No. 18 they came, cheered side by side: Ben Crenshaw and Tianlang Guan, finishing the first round of the Masters separated by two green jackets and 47 years.

Then, perfunctorily, Guan sent along a putt from the fringe and it disappeared for a birdie, Guan punched the air and the 14-year-old — the youngest player in Masters history — completed a round at formidable Augusta National with a one-over 73.

"I think I've just done a good job here," Guan said. "People here are very nice, rooting for me, and I felt comfortable on the course."

The day began with a traditional Chinese breakfast featuring beef, potatoes and stir-fry eggs, and his mother brought him a banana at the turn. He unleashed nearly impossible up-and-downs, especially a behind-the-green miracle on No. 6.

"That chip on the sixth was pretty tough," Guan said. "I don't want to be there another time."

Said Crenshaw: "I mean, he played like four of the most beautiful, delicate pitches you've ever seen. He played like a journeyman who's been around the block many, many times. He played a beautiful round of golf."

Guan said his long-range goal is to "hopefully" win all four majors in one year. As for his chances of winning this week?

"Um, I think probably not this year," Guan said. "But I think I can one day in the future."

Greens freeze

Bubba Watson muttered as his birdie attempt on No. 18 stopped well short, emblematic of the day. Misreads and missed speeds sent the defending champion to a three-over 75.

"I gave the jacket up two weeks ago when I was here, so nobody owns the jacket," Watson said. "But, no, I didn't feel any different. I didn't feel any more pressure. I just didn't get the speed right on the greens."

False start

Charl Schwartzel's round started horrendously. His first drive hit a tree and ended up 30 yards right, steps from a road. He flipped over an eight-iron and hit left-handed for his recovery shot, which also hit a tree.

The 2011 champion pitched back to the fairway before finally reaching the green in four and two-putting for double bogey.

"Got there eventually," he said after rebounding for a one-under 71.

Etc.

Jamie Donaldson of Wales made an ace at the 180-yard sixth hole, striking a perfect iron that bounced twice before rolling into the cup. … After 14 holes, Luke Donald noticed his TaylorMade driver was cracked. A rules official told him he could finish the round with it, but he had a new one shipped for Friday. "It wasn't very good for the old mental side," said Donald, who made six birdies in a one-under 71.

bchamilton@tribune.com

tgreenstein@tribune.com

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