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Guan struggles on course but draws lots of admirers

Updated: 2013-04-15 08:02
By Garrett Johnston in Augusta, Georgia ( China Daily)

 Guan struggles on course but draws lots of admirers

Amateur Guan Tianlang of China is applauded by the gallery as he walks onto the first tee during the third round of the Masters on Saturday. Brian Snyder / Reuters

Guan Tianlang continued his tremendous experience at the US Masters on Saturday.

Although he shot a 5-over par 77 during the third round and now stands at 9-over par and in 59th place for the tournament, he had some bright spots, in particular, a solid short game that got him out of trouble a number times on the front nine.

He has also put his overall experience at the US Masters in perspective.

"It's great for me," Guan said, "And I think I had a pretty good run the first two days, and (Saturday was) pretty good, not bad I was at a couple (of holes) unlucky, but that's golf."

Because he is not hitting the ball as far as most players in the elite field, he is using longer clubs, such as fairway woods and hybrids into Augusta's severely sloped greens on his second shots.

As a result, he has little room for error, especially once he misses a green. On holes five through seven his chipping and putting were a saving grace.

Every time in that stretch, when he put the ball above the hole or in a tough spot on his approaches, he delicately chipped close and made his putts for par.

The stretch of par saves were so impressive that his father, Guan Hanwen, couldn't contain his joy.

"It's exciting," he said. "It's great that he plays so good."

Guan finished his round making a 60-foot putt on the 18th hole and got quite a cheer from the crowd.

"It's just a great week for me," Guan said, "And I really enjoy it. People here are nice, and I learned a lot from the top players. I think I played pretty good rounds these three days. It's really great."

The people who have come out to watch the Masters feel like they are being treated to a unique experience in witnessing Guan and his historic run.

"When you get somebody like this making it through to Sunday at the Masters that can't hurt golf in China," Mark Turner, of New York, said.

"He's two years older than my son, I have a 12-year-old, so it's amazing for me to think two years difference. I couldn't even imagine it."

Others watching at Augusta and seeing what Guan is doing, can't help but wish him well for the future.

"He's outstanding," Terry Thurston said. Thurston lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is only a couple hours drive from Augusta. "We just wish him the best. I hope he's going to be another Jack Nicklaus."

Come Sunday night in Butler Cabin, Guan will receive the Silver Cup for top amateur, as Nicklaus did in 1960.

"He seems very steady and very collected," another patron, Frank Feeney, said. "I just love the spirit, just coming out here. He's energized, he doesn't come across with arrogance, there's no ego, it's a steady confidence and I like it."

Feeney is so impressed by Guan's potential and believes he can go under par on Augusta's demanding layout.

"I really hope he goes under par tomorrow," Feeney said. "He can do it, especially the way he can putt."

Freeney also fancies Guan's ability and accomplishments this week at Augusta to influence future Chinese golfers.

"He could really drive the game in China," Freeney said.

Mike Arends, of Seattle, Washington, was also at the course on Saturday and feels that young Guan is almost at an unfair disadvantage going up against grown men who are proven winners in the game.

"If you think about it, with the culture, and the pressure ... it's all new to him. It's literally a boy against men. It's almost like they should give him a few strokes," Arends said.

(China Daily 04/15/2013 page24)

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