by Jeff Skinner
There were many great rounds of golf played over the hills of Augusta National today. The relative unknown Mark Leishman made his early mark at The Masters with a six under 66. A resurgent Sergio Garcia matched that to once again keep him in the race for that elusive first major championship. Freddy Couples continues to amaze with a suspect back but a strong Masters game. And Dustin Johnson continues to threaten to win a major sometime in his career.
But for my money the round of the day doesn’t belong to one of the familiar names that top the Masters leaderboard. The round of the day has to be the one over par 73 earned by the fourteen year old who is drawing rave reviews from the players and loud applause from the patrons.
Tianlang Guan is the eighth grader from China that earned his way into The Masters with his win at the Asian Amateur and has made himself a home at Augusta National. He’s the youngest player ever to play in The Masters but despite lacking the power a 7,500 yard course demands he did quite well for himself on opening day.
He admitted to some nerves to start,”…just a little bit nervous on the first tee” and proceeded to bogey the first but after that he settled down for a solid day that many veterans twice, or three times his age would have settled for.
Guan was touted as a skilled youngster that was short off the tee (for professionals) but knew how to get it in the hole. And that’s just what he did today. Hit could only manage to hit eight of the greens in regulation but with some generous rolls down the Augusta hills he averaged 275 yards off the tee, well over his 250 yard average.
He worked some magic with his putter as he used only 25 putts on the treacherous Augusta greens. Any veteran would take that total and run.
He was left with many long approaches into the greens and was able to work his hybrids and woods well. His long range and short game skills were evident on the eighteenth when after his hybrid approach left him a twenty foot putt from the fringe he sank the putt for birdie. As the crowd cheered along with his playing partners Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, Quan took it in stride with a tip of the hat, a gentle wave and a little slight smile.
Afterwards he was asked about his day and what he expected out of this experience and he responded with” The main thing is to enjoy the tournament and just have fun.”
He’s off to a great start.