Winning after the first round at Augusta National is the boy tied for 46th place: Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old who as the youngest competitor in a major since 1865 sits just on the cut line at 1-over.
The Chinese middle-schooler spent the past month at Augusta, preparing. His drives lack the punch of old-man strength but his short game is, in the words of Ben Crenshaw, “beautiful, delicate.”
Naturally the entire world is gobsmacked and no one bothered to write a single non-Guan word about the tournament. Here’s the sampler platter from Thursday.
Ben Crenshaw, quoted in ESPN.com:
"[Guan] played like a veteran today, a 28-year-old journeyman whose been around the block and made a ton of cuts," said the 61-year-old, two-time Masters champion. "He played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself. He's very confident and his thought process never got rushed. Very patient. Very impressive."
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo:
Across this warm, humid afternoon here, Guan stunned the golf world with two things – his outrageously soft hands around the green and his poise, even in the wake of mistakes.
When he was seemingly lost behind the six green, he executed a perfect up and down for par. When he made a poor chip on nine and wound up with a bogey, he immediately responded with a birdie on 10. When he went into the pond on 11, a receiver shot saved bogey and he then settled into par, birdie through Amen Corner.
Andy Bull, The Guardian:
Guan qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, a competition organised by the R&A and Augusta National to promote the game in that part of the world. His age alone meant that he has been the hot topic of conversation all week long. But no one was expecting him to play this well. Apart from Guan and his family, of course. "He did very well, amazing," said Guan's father. "But he was only as good as he always is." There were a few nerves on the first tee, Guan said, but "then I hit a great tee shot and after that everything just felt very comfortable."
The boy is a natural. Remember his name.
Jay Coffin, The Golf Channel:
A day ago, media-types were saying this week would be a success for Guan if he broke 80 in either of the first two rounds. Now, after the Herculean effort in Round 1, the young man who is listed as 135 pounds but looks more like 120, has a realistic chance to qualify for the weekend, especially now that the cut includes the top-50 players and ties.
Yes, it’s silly to think Guan could actually win the Masters this year but he was still asked if he has enough game to win the green jacket on Sunday.
“I think probably not this year,” Guan said with a broad smile. “I think one day in the future.”
Mark Hayes, the Herald Sun:
His parents said they'd been far more nervous than Guan before he teed off, as they were before he won the Asia Pacific Amateur title that punched his ticket to Georgia.
That poise and focus perhaps best demonstrated on the short par-four third.
Guan was lining up for a birdie putt when Henrik Stenson's tee shot rose over the green's front lip and created a commotion that disrupted Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, the previous holder of the youngest Masters participant record until Guan took the gong.
And even as the crowd murmured and giggled, Guan simply stayed down over his ball, focused as if nothing had happened, and rolled in the first birdie of three yesterday and, one suspects, many more to come.
"The people are nice and some of the times they are cheering for me and it feels great," said Guan, who was jokingly asked by one journalist if he'd like to meet his eighth-grade daughter.
Karen Crouse, The New York Times:
The slightly built Guan looks more like a candidate for the newly created Drive, Pitch and Putt competition, aimed at attracting youngsters to the game, than a competitor poised to make the cut in his first major. The cathedral-like hush on the course was broken by patrons in Guan’s gallery making comments like, “I couldn’t even stay home by myself at his age.”
On the 18th hole, Guan walked up to the green alongside Crenshaw, and the patrons ringing the green stood up and applauded. At that moment, it was not clear which player the patrons loved more, the popular ex-champion or the pint-size rookie.
As if playing to the crowd, Guan drained his putt from the fringe for a birdie. As he headed to the scoring house, a ticketholder walking several steps behind him turned to his friend and said: “That is so exciting. I’m glad we got to see that.”