Rivals continue to marvel at the Chinese teenager’s coolness under pressure.
Chinese 14-year-old schoolboy Guan Tianlang, the youngest player in Masters history, struggled to a five-over par 77 in Saturday’s third round of the 77th Masters to stand third-from last.
Simply reaching the weekend by making the cut on the number was a triumph of sorts for Guan, the youngest player in a major since Scotland’s “Young” Tom Morris made his British Open debut at age 14 in 1865.
“It’s just a great week for me, and I really enjoy it,” Guan said. “People here are nice and I learned a lot from the top players. I played pretty good rounds these three days. It’s really great.”
Guan, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last year in Thailand to qualify for the Masters, stood on nine-over par 225 after 54 holes.
On Sunday, Guan will play alongside Scotland’s 55-year-old Sandy Lyle, the 1985 Masters winner, in the second group.
“I’m pretty excited I get to play with all the top players on the weekend,” Guan said. “I had a pretty good run in the first two days, and today feels pretty good, not badly. I did a couple unlucky (things), but that’s golf.”
After a bogey at the par-3 fourth for the second day in a row, Guan took bogeys at the par-4 ninth and par-4 11th for the second time in three days. He also made bogeys at 14 and 17 playing alongside Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.
“Unbelievable. He’s a great player,” Olesen said. “Every shot he hit was almost at the pin and in the right spots. He could have holed a few more putts, but I was really impressed by his game. It was impressive to watch.”
Guan has not made a birdie since sinking a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole on Thursday to finish his first Masters round with a sizzling 71.
That start helped ensure Guan will claim the Silver Cup as low amateur as the only non-pro to make the cut and put Guan in the Butler Cabin on Sunday when the new champion is first presented with his green jacket.
“It’s my honor to be there and I’m really happy,” Guan said.
Guan’s Asia-Pacific Amateur triumph also booked him a berth in the final international qualifying for this year’s British Open and he said that he hopes to attempt to qualify for June’s US Open if timing with schoolwork allows.
Asked about his idol, 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, receiving a two-shot penalty for an improper drop from the same Augusta Natyional officials who gave Guan a rare slow-play penalty stroke on Friday, Guan backed the authorities.
“I think rules are rules, and I respect the decisions they make,” Guan said. “I think Tiger played pretty good.”
Guan said rules officials told him he was slightly slow at the 12th hole on Saturday but not out of position.
“They said we are a couple minutes behind but we are still good,” Guan said.
Added Olesen: “I didn’t think he played slow. I think he played pretty quick actually. He’s 14 and there’s a big crowd following him so it’s pretty difficult for him. I think he has handled it really, really good.”