The youngest competitor in the history of the Masters Tournament quickly figured out the key to success at Augusta National Golf Club.
“These greens are pretty tough and not the same as in China,” Tianlang Guan, 14, said in a press conference today at the Augusta, Georgia, club, site of golf’s first annual major tournament. “I need to spend more time on them.”
Guan earned a spot in this week’s field by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November.
Winners of the U.S., British and Asia-Pacific amateur events are invited to the Masters each year. The youngest player previously to take part in the Masters was Italy’s Matteo Manassero, 11 days before his 17th birthday in 2010.
Guan, a student from Guangzhou and China’s first Asia-Pacific amateur champion, will be 14 years, 5 months, 17 days old when the Masters begins on April 11. In June, 14-year-old Andy Zhang of China became the youngest player to take part in the U.S. Open.
“I knew he was young, I didn’t know he was the same age as my daughter,” 46-year-old Steve Stricker said at a news conference that followed Guan’s. “That’s remarkable. I just can’t imagine being that young and competing at that level. I’ll be interested to see how he handles it and how he does.”
Guan, who conducted his press conference in English, said he has spent the past three weeks in the Augusta area, playing the course 2-3 times each week. In total, he said, he has played it six or seven times.
Along with trying to figure out how to putt on the course’s sloping greens, Guan said, his biggest challenge this week would be navigating Augusta’s 7,435-yard layout.
“I’m not long enough,” he said. “But I think I’m still all right on this golf course. Hopefully, I can play well.”
Guan played a practice round today with Ben Crenshaw, the tournament’s 1984 and 1995 winner, and will meet up with five-time British Open winner Tom Watson tomorrow. He will play the annual Par-3 tournament in a group with three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo in two days.
While he won’t play with four-time winner Tiger Woods, Guan said he wants to talk with the world’s No. 1-ranked player at some point this week.
“I played with him twice in the past couple years,” Guan said. “He gives me advice. Every time I play with him, I feel a lot better and it gives myself some confidence.”
Guan listened to advice today from Crenshaw, 61, known as one of golf’s best putters. The two talked at length about the sloping green on the par-5 13th hole, which ends the “Amen Corner” section of the course.
“He told me a lot,” Guan said. “The slope is pretty big and you have to have a pretty good understanding of the green.”
Guan also demonstrated he’s a quick study of Augusta National’s ever-changing course conditions.
“It will be different during the real tournament,” he said. “The greens will probably go firmer and probably tougher.”