Tianlang Guan's Masters Debut Already Successful Regardless of Finish

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Tianlang Guan of China tees off on the second hole during the first round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

All eyes were on Tianlang Guan during Thursday's first round of the Masters as the 14-year-old native of China became the youngest person to ever compete in The Masters. The youngster impressed many as he finished at one-over par for the day, but his debut is a success no matter how he fares.

Guan qualified for The Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last fall, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, and there has been plenty of buzz surrounding him ever since. Guan definitely lived up to the hype Thursday and he has perhaps even usurped Tiger Woods as the top story in the entire tournament.

Guan's first round was a mixed bag, but that is to be expected from a player who is as young as he is.

In addition to four birdies, Guan posted five bogeys, so he certainly hurt himself in some ways; however, his play was quite encouraging. The current projected cut line is four-over par, which puts Guan in great position to play this weekend provided he has a steady second round.

Even if Guan totally tanks and misses the cut completely, though, he will have nothing to hang his head about. Guan is of eighth-grade age and he stands just 5'8", weighing a mere 140 pounds. Guan hasn't come anywhere close to growing into his body yet, but he's out on the Augusta National course against grown men with muscles and, perhaps more importantly, experience.

Despite the enormity of Guan's situation, he didn't allow the pressure to get to him Thursday.

The prodigy even managed to drain a long birdie putt on the 18th hole in order to move himself one stroke further from the all-important cut line. That cut line isn't quite as important in Guan's case as it is for most others, though.

As much as fans like to glorify things like a 14-year-old making The Masters, Guan shouldn't have unrealistic expectations placed on his shoulders.

It's great to see him performing so admirably, but it's unlikely that winning the tournament is even on his mind. Winning is always the goal for any athlete, but The 2013 Masters are more about gaining valuable experience.

Phenoms like Guan have faltered in the past, so there is no guarantee that he'll get many more chances, but his talent level is undeniable, so conventional wisdom states that this is just the beginning for him. If that is the case, then his experience this year could very well help carry him to great things in the future.

Even though Guan seems to be playing without pressure, it has to be tough for him to remain focused.

Not only is there a ton of attention on him, but it's pretty difficult for a 14-year-old kid to focus on anything for too long. Guan will eventually gain confidence in that regard, and this tourney should go a long way towards making that happen.

There is no doubt that Guan wants to make the cut and fans would love to see that happen as well. Playing two more rounds at Augusta National means that he would gain even more experience, and he would learn what it feels like to play on Sunday in arguably the most prestigious tourney in golf.

In a perfect world, that is precisely what will happen for Guan. There are a lot of potential pitfalls that can trip him up in the second round, though. No matter what happens, Guan is the youngest player to compete in The Masters, and it's unlikely that anyone will be able to take that honor from him in the foreseeable future.

His future is incredibly bright and his placing in his first major tournament won't affect that one way or the other. Most players out on the course this week are there to win, and that may be Guan's dream as well, but he has already won based purely on the fact that he is competing with the best players in the world.

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