AUGUSTA, Ga. — While Tiger Woods commands the spotlight going into this week’s Masters after a sizzling start to the season, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang has also got tongues wagging at Augusta National.
The Chinese prodigy will become the youngest player to compete at the Masters when he tees off in Thursday’s opening round and he has already stunned the game’s top practitioners with his remarkable talent and poise during practice rounds.
“For a 14-year-old to be able to come out here and handle himself the way he’s done is just unbelievable,” four-time Masters champion Woods said. “As I was saying to some of the guys yesterday, this kid can’t even play high school golf. He’s not in high school yet, so it’s hard to believe.”
Woods, a favorite for the year’s opening major after winning three times in his first five starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, played nine holes with Guan on Monday and was hugely impressed.
“He’s so consistent,” said top-ranked player in the world. “He was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot on, right on the numbers. “He knew what he was doing, he knew the spots he had to land the ball and to be able to pull it off.”
Guan, who has swiftly established himself as Asia’s latest golf sensation, booked his place at the Masters with a one-shot victory at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand in November.
He was the youngest player in that field and on Thursday he will lower by more than two years the Masters’ age record set three years ago by Italy’s Matteo Manassero.
“At 14, Guan is an incredible player,” said Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner at Augusta. “You can’t believe how good he putts it. And this can be a great golf course for him.”