By Bill Fields
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A practice round with Ben Crenshaw today. A practice round with Tom Watson tomorrow. A round in the Par-3 Contest with Nick Faldo the day after that. Life is good for Tianlang Guan, the first-time participant in the 77th Masters.
Those green-jacket owners are old enough to be the Chinese golfer's grandfather.
What were you doing when you were 14?
Guan, who won the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to earn his berth as the youngest golfer to play in the Masters (by two years, over Italy's Matteo Manassero, who was 16 when he competed in 2010), is working on his English as well as his golf. He was in the interview room at Augusta National Monday afternoon, flanked by azaleas, member-moderator Rob Johnston and an interpreter (who only had to hit a couple of shots).
Crenshaw, once a prodigy himself, told Guan to "just enjoy my game."
He is going to try.
"I think it's going to be a little pressure to me, but I'm not going to push myself too hard," said Guan, "and I'm trying to just enjoy my game, play my best, and hopefully play some good scores."
Guan was born 18 months after Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters. He has already played in Asia with the 14-time major champion, who inspired him to get serious about golf. "I was probably 3 or 4 years old, I was looking at him win the Masters, and it's pretty exciting to watch him," Guan said. "I played with him twice the past couple of years, and he gives me many advice and I will say every time I play with him, I feel a lot better and give myself some confidence."
His performance might be affected his youth or his inexperience, but he should have adequated local knowledge, having played Augusta National "six, seven times" by Monday. He has a strong short game, and he will need it. "I've still got to practice hard here because [these greens are] pretty tough, and it's not the same in China," Guan said.
He'll sleep in the club's Crow's Nest Monday night, perhaps dreaming in two languages about the days ahead.
There will be a lot to enjoy.
[Photo: Don Emmert/Getty Images]