Golf

14-year-old wows partner, crowd

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Guan Tianlang put off his homework for a few hours, grabbed the snack his mom had made and went out to play with his friends.

His playground was Augusta National and the world had tuned in to watch the 14-year-old from China, the youngest player ever to tee it up at the Masters and youngest at any major in 148 years.

That's some play date.

"I felt a little bit nervous on the first tee," Guan said. "But I hit a great tee shot and, after that, everything feels comfortable. ... I just had fun today. Pretty much fun."

Played great, too.

Guan made a 15-footer from off the fringe to birdie his final hole Thursday, finishing with a 1-over 73. As the ball rolled into the cup, the crowd around 18 gave the teenager a standing ovation, with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw leading the cheers for his young playing partner.

Play like this again Friday, and he's got a shot at making the cut.

"I'm telling you, he played like a veteran today," Crenshaw said. "Played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself. He's very confident and, obviously, beautiful hands. His thought process never got rushed. Very patient. Very, very, very impressive."

He wasn't the only one who was impressed. The same "wow" murmurs could be heard on every hole, as fans — young and old — marveled at the eighth grader who was holding his own with the greatest golfers in the world.

"That's the 14-year-old."

"Fourteen? You're joking!"

"It's amazing. Absolutely amazing," said Lisa Nichols, whose folding chair, from the 1998 Masters, was older than Guan.

No tête-à-têtes

Jack Nicklaus has shared his secrets and strategy about Augusta National with anyone who wanted to learn from a six-time Masters champion, a list that includes Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Nicolas Colsaerts. But not Tiger Woods.

Nicklaus said he's never had a sit-down with the man who is trying to break his records.

In fact, he said they hardly talk at all.

"I never really had a conversation with Tiger that lasted more than a minute or two — ever," Nicklaus said Thursday morning after hitting the ceremonial tee shot. "He stayed away from me from a conversation standpoint. Never had a conversation on the Masters in general. I've said, 'Hello, how are you doing? Nice playing this year. You've played very well.' End of conversation. People ask me, 'Has Tiger ever talked to you about his record?' Never one word."

Nicklaus said he was surprised Woods hasn't talked to him about the Masters, though he's not the least bit offended. Woods, after all, figured out the course quickly. He won the Masters three times in his first six years as a pro.

"He's got his own focus and what he does, and I respect that," Nicklaus said.

Even so, it offered some rare insight into the relationship between Woods and Nicklaus, with whom he has been linked ever since Woods was a youngster and kept a timeline of the milestones Nicklaus achieved in his career.

So what kind of golf talk is Woods missing out on?

Nicklaus spoke mainly about taking risks only when the percentages and the situation called for it, and realize that a shot into the middle of just about any green at Augusta National will leave a reasonable chance at birdie.

An ace on the sixth

Welsh golfer Jamie Donaldson aced the sixth hole during Thursday's opening round. He becomes the fifth golfer to make a 1 at the 180-yard hole known as Juniper. And it's the first since Chris DiMarco in 2004.

Overall, it was the 24th ace in Masters history.

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