AUGUSTA, Ga. - For a brief moment, Tianlang Guan was Augusta's cause célèbre, a 14-year-old amateur who'd captured the sympathy of the golf world when Augusta National tagged him with a controversial slow-play penalty. But he made the cut on the number, and for a brief moment, all was forgiven.
Then came the Tiger Woods possible-DQ scandal, and Guan suddenly became yesterday's news, literally and figuratively. The slow-play penalty was a sidelight to the possible disqualification of the world's No. 1 golfer, and Guan was left to do what he came here to do: play golf.
And he did, better than you or I ever could at Augusta but not well enough to make much of a dent in the leaderboard. He carded five bogeys and finished the day with a 77, leaving him at +9 for the tournament and right at the bottom of the field that made the cut. The highlight, though, was a long — Guan estimated it at 20 yards — putt on 18 to save par.
Still, when he finished, he was parked between a couple notable names: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Five majors aren't bad company. And if the precision and calm with which he's played this week is any indication, he's likely to be returning to Augusta the first weekend in April for many years to come.
"It's just a great week for me, and I really enjoy it," Guan said afterward. "People here are nice, and I learned a lot from the top players. I think I played pretty good rounds these three days."