It was an up-and-down debut at The Masters for Tianlang Guan, the youngest player to ever compete at one of golf’s most revered events.
Thankfully for the 14-year-old middle school student from China, getting up (in the air) and down (the hole) is completely acceptable.
Guan birdied the final hole today to finish 1-over par 73, good enough for 46th place.
To put that in perspective, he’s only three shots behind Tiger Woods. Guan is within spitting distance of Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman, who lead the first round at 6-under par.
Not only that, Guan is ahead of such notable pros as Ian Poulter, Lucas Glover and 2012 champion Bubba Watson.
“He played about four of the most delicate pitches I’ve ever seen,” 61-year-old Texan Ben Crenshaw said at Masters.com.
Crenshaw is a two-time winner who played alongside Guan today.
“He played like a 28-year-old journeyman and stayed well within himself. His thought process was never rushed, and he was very patient. It certainly didn’t seem like he had any nerves.”
By the way, Guan beat Crenshaw by seven strokes.
The teen’s day ended well, but it didn’t start with much fanfare. He bogeyed three holes on the front nine, but recovered after the turn with three birdies.
“I felt great today,” Guan told reporters after his round. “I was a little nervous on the first tee, but then I hit a great tee shot, and after that, I felt very comfortable.”
The accolades began pouring in for Guan after the first day.
Golf writer Paul Mahoney of The Independent said Guan showed “guts and talent and nerve under one of sport’s most dazzling spotlights.”
“As that old saying goes: if you are good enough, you are old enough,” he wrote.
He especially impressed veteran Fred Couples, who did OK himself by shooting a 4-under 68 and sits tied for fourth.