AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fourteen-year-old Tianlang Guan pulled a veteran move on Monday at Augusta National, swinging a practice round with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.
During his three-week odyssey, the youngest Masters participate said he’s been doing extra homework, so he doesn’t fall behind at school (He’s currently studying English, which makes his historic trip to the year’s first major something of a field trip). But on Monday, it was a much more intense class on the nuances of a complex course from perhaps one of the layout’s preeminent scholars.
“We just talked about certain holes,” Crenshaw said. “At (No.) 18, you need to add a club, and we talked a lot about the greens and the breaks, where certain flags will be. You can’t learn enough about this golf course.”
The knock on the Chinese phenom is that he’s not long enough to compete at Augusta National and that he may be a suspect putter (he uses a belly putter), but Crenshaw quickly dismissed that notion following Monday’s round.
“He’s still growing,” said Crenshaw, who received a text message about a month ago requesting the practice round. “I can see him hitting the ball further, and he handled some of those short shorts really well.”
As for his own expectations, Guan said he’s comfortable with the pressure that comes with such a high-profile start.
“I’m not going to push myself too hard,” he said. “There’s going to be a little pressure on me, but I’m going to play like myself.”
Guan’s Augusta National crash course continued Monday when he played with none other than Tiger Woods on the back nine, along with Dustin Johnson. Guan also is scheduled to play with another two-time champion on Tuesday, Tom Watson, and he plans to play the Par-3 Contest with three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo on Wednesday.