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Monday, April 8, 2013
Tianlang Guan gets playing advice

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tianlang Guan, 14, saw more spectators -- by far -- on Monday than he is used to seeing on a golf course, just one of many new experiences for the youngest competitor in Masters history.

Guan, who has been in Augusta for the past three weeks, played a practice round with four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Guan had previously met Woods on two separate occasions during exhibitions in China.

"I'm really excited in the morning when I come out onto the course and there's many people here," Guan said at a news conference before playing with Woods. "I'm really looking forward to the tournament."

"He's not even in high school. He's in middle school. And he's in the Masters," said Woods, who passed along some tips about the golf course and certain pin placements. "It's a pretty remarkable story. We had a good time. The kid is 14. And he's good."

Earlier Monday, Guan also played a practice round with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and has similar sessions scheduled with former Masters winners Tom Watson and Nick Faldo before the first round begins Thursday.

Guan earned his place in the field -- which dropped to 93 players on Monday with the withdrawal of Darren Clarke because of injury -- when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November.

The tournament was started with the backing of Augusta National specifically with the idea of promoting the game in Asia. The Masters has given a spot in the field to the winner of the tournament for four years. The Open Championship also exempts the winner into the final stage of qualifying.

Crenshaw said he received a text from one of Guan's representatives a month ago asking about the possibility of a practice round.

"I think all of us are asking ourselves, 'What were we doing at 14?' " said Crenshaw, 61, who won the Masters in 1984 and 1995. "You can tell he breathes golf. It was fascinating to see him play."

Crenshaw tried to impart the advice of someone who's been playing Augusta National since the early 1970s.

"We talked about lots of greens. And the breaks and I told him approximate places where pins will be. He didn't seem to be [intimidated]," Crenshaw said. "He looks like he has his feet on the ground. When you watch him, watch him approach a shot, watch him concentrate ... it's fun to watch that.

"You are going to see lots of him."

Guan said he has played Augusta National seven or eight times and admitted its length -- 7,432 yards, par-72 -- would be an issue on several holes. He is not expected to be able to reach any of the par-5s in two shots.

He said he would likely have to hit a hybrid into the par-4 first -- 445 yards -- and a hybrid or fairway wood into the par-4 11th -- 505 yards.

At one point, he was asked a question in Mandarin as to whether he feared being "embarrassed" or having "pressure" if he doesn't play well this week.

"As I say, I'm not going to push myself too hard," Guan said, "and I'm trying to just enjoy my game, play my best, and hopefully play some good golf."

Guan will become the second-youngest player to compete in a major championship, surpassed only by Tom Morris Jr., who was a month younger when he made his debut in the 1865 Open Championship. (He would win the tournament four times.)

Guan, who is an eighth-grader in Guangzhou, China, said that while he is in the United States he still has homework to do. "I do pretty much all of it, but not too much," he said. "English the most. I'm learning English the most."