To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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Hometown: Guangzhou, China
How he qualified: Won, 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur
Tianlang Guan isn’t old enough to drive down Magnolia Lane, but that won’t keep him from playing the Masters. At 14, Guan will be the youngest competitor in Masters history. There are concerns about his lack of length, both off the tee and in the tooth, and what that will mean for his appearance at Augusta National.
“He might want to wait a little longer to attack something like Augusta,” Arnold Palmer said. “But . . . if he can qualify, let him have at it.”
Guan, of Guangzhou, China, earned his Masters invitation when we won last year’s Asia-Pacific Amaterur Championship and beat some of the world’s top amateurs – including University of Washington All-American Cheng-Tsung Pan, who is No. 9 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking; U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist Oliver Goss of Australia, who is ranked 19th; and two-time Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama is the world’s No. 4 amateur and made the cut in both of his Masters appearances.
How Guan will handle Augusta National has been the source of much speculation since he shot 15-under 273 (66-64-72-71) at Thailand’s Amata Spring Country Club in November.
This is the second consecutive year a 14-year-old from China will play a major championship. Andy Zhang missed the cut at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Guan has struggled in professional events, and understandably so. The Zhi Xin Middle School student is barely a teenager. He played two events in 2012 that offered Official World Golf Ranking points, missing the cut at both the Volvo China Open (77-79) and Emirates Australian Open (82-70). At International Final Qualifying for this year’s Open Championship, he missed qualifying by 11 shots. He received good preparation for Augusta National earlier this year at the Australia Master of the Amateurs, held at another prestigious Alister Mackenzie design, Royal Melbourne. Guan opened with 68, but finished 19th after closing with three consecutive over-par rounds. What Guan might lack in length – he carried the ball about 240 yards, running out to 260 on Royal Melbourne’s firm fairways – he compensates with a stellar short game. “He had a pretty good variety of shots,” said University of Tennessee senior Rick Lamb, who played with Guan in the Master of the Amateur’s first two rounds. “He has a phenomenal short game. He keeps it in play pretty well. He doesn’t hit wild shots off the tee. And when he does miss a green, he gets it up-and-down. The best part of his short game is his ability to make putts inside 10 feet.”
Making the cut might seem like a long shot for Guan, but Matteo Manassero was a short-hitting 16-year-old when he played the 2010 Masters as the reigning British Amateur champion. He tied for 36th. Guan doesn’t need to make the cut to make history, though.