Guan so young, so confident entering Masters

By Jason SobelApril 5, 2013, 1:20 pm

It sounds like one of those classic old Johnny Carson jokes. “Tianlang Guan is so young …”

“How young is he?” the crowd asks in unison, anticipating the punch line.

“Tianlang Guan is so young … that when Tiger Woods won his first green jacket, he wasn’t even born yet!”

Funny, right? In a way, yes. But that’s no punch line. Guan, who will soon become the youngest competitor in Masters history, was born on Oct. 25, 1998, which means he wasn’t even a glint in his parents’ eyes when Woods first became a major champion.

If that doesn’t make you feel old, then you’re probably doing the same geometry homework as him right now.

“I can't fathom that,” Steve Stricker says when asked about competing against a fellow player who’s nearly the same age as his oldest daughter. “It's hard to comprehend that they're that good at such an early age, but kids get started early nowadays.”

Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

At 14, the boy affectionately called Langley is getting started earlier at Augusta National than anyone before him. He’s more than two years younger than Matteo Manassero was in 2010, back when we were doing similar head-shaking about a kid who hadn’t yet turned 17.

In an era when teenagers are competing in majors, qualifying for PGA Tour membership and winning LPGA titles, it’s easy to become desensitized to exactly what Guan is accomplishing at such a young age, but let’s not take for granted that the kid will be competing in the world’s most celebrated golf tournament long before he can ever apply for a learner’s permit to drive.

Asked in an email interview to gauge his excitement level, and you can almost feel his smile beaming through the inbox: “To be the youngest player in the history of the Masters, I feel very honored, excited and looking forward to it. I know I will enjoy it very much. Also, I very appreciate for everything my parents have done for me; it has been a long journey to them as well.”

As for what would make Masters week a success, he sounds wise beyond his years.

“It is an honor for me to be able to play with the best golfers in the world. To me, the only goal is to enjoy the event and give my best. And of course, if I can make the cut, that would be even better!”

It’s a lofty goal for the Asian Amateur Championship winner, who will have plenty of supporters rooting for him, but just as many guarded with skepticism.

Chances are, Guan may know Arnold Palmer solely as “that dude from the video game,” but the four-time Masters champion, who is 69 years his elder, sounds a bit worried that such weighty pressure could cause more harm than good for the kid.

“I'm not so sure that it isn't more of a detriment than it is a plus for him,” Palmer bluntly states. “I think that if he had a little more experience and a little more time to play the game and play in competition, that he might want to wait a little longer to attack something like Augusta. But as far as the rules and the club (are) concerned, if he can qualify, let him have at it.”

He’ll be having at it on the most prestigious, pristine turf the game knows, for at least 36 holes, in the spotlight throughout. While media coverage – and scrutiny – will be in full force here in the U.S. when he tees it up Thursday, it will be nothing compared with the wall-to-wall analysis he’ll receive from outlets in his native China.

It remains to be seen whether he can walk the walk of an elite player someday, but the confident kid can certainly talk the talk already.

“I am very good at it,” he says when asked what he likes most about golf. “If you are good at something, it will keep motivating you to become even better.”

Off the course, Guan is just a regular 14-year-old. He enjoys playing basketball, riding his bicycle around the neighborhood and checking out video games. He’s got plenty of friends his age and likes watching DVDs about Tiger Woods, the guy who’s been winning majors since before he was born.

Yes, he’s just a regular 14-year-old – with a Masters invitation.

And some super-sized dreams.

“I hope one day I can win four majors in one year,” he proudly boasts of the never-before-accomplished, professional Grand Slam. “I genuinely want to achieve this dream.”

Precocious? Absolutely. But hey, he’s still a kid. He’s supposed to dream big. And besides, he already knows a little something about making history.

Getty Images

McIlroy 'committed to everything ... ran out of holes'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy summed it up: “I don’t really feel like it’s a defeat. I feel like it’s a good week.”

McIlroy, in search of his fifth major, tied for the lead at The Open late on Sunday at Carnoustie when he made eagle on the par-5 14th hole. An hour later, he had made five consecutive pars to close out a 1-under 70 and tie for second place with Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

That group ended two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. McIlroy thought it was realistic to squeeze one more shot out of his round, but he never though it was possible to squeeze out two.

“I committed to everything,” he said. “I hit the shots when I needed to. I made good swings on 17 and on 18. I just ran out of holes.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy hasn’t played poorly this year, but this hasn't been a year that would rank as a total success. He took the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and collected a second-place finish at the BMW PGA Championship. He had a legitimate chance to win the Masters before a terrible Sunday round, and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Sunday at Carnoustie, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first five holes and quickly became an afterthought. When others faltered, McIlroy birdies Nos. 9 and 11, then eagled 14 to vault back into the picture.

“I’m happy with how I played,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a great start, but I hung in there, and I battled back.

“So I’ll look back at this week and be very encouraged about what I’ve done and the golf that I played. I feel like that will stand me in good stead for what’s coming up.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks, followed by the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.

Getty Images

Edoardo, other pros congratulate Francesco on Twitter

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:54 pm

Francesco Molinari played a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie to claim Italy's first claret jug.

His rock-solid performance in the final round earned him his share of social media plaudits.

Here's a collection of Twitter hat-tips, and we start off with Frankie's brother, Dodo.

Getty Images

Woods: Fan who yelled had 'tipped back a few'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 6:37 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods stood on the 18th tee and thought he needed birdie to have a chance to win The Open. He pulled driver out of his bag, a sign he wanted to boot the ball as far down the fairway as possible.

Woods took a mighty swat and - right in the middle of his downswing - someone yelled. Woods flinched.

Luckily his ball still found a decent spot just off the right of the fairway.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I’ve had things like that happen a lot in my career with people who just tried to time it,” Woods said Sunday at Carnoustie after shooting 71 to tie for sixth place. “They tipped back a few, and it’s late in the day.

“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game. People are trying to yell out things to try to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it may be. That was too close to the game of play.”

Woods hit his approach to 6 feet and missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par to shoot even par and finish 5 under for the week, in a tie for sixth.

Getty Images

Pros melt down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:30 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and, for a little while, took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

His fellow pros were watching and tweeting like your average fans.

We compiled some of their missives below:

Woods would go on to finish in a tie for sixth at 5 under par for the week.