Words don't quite do justice to describe Tianlang Guan's outstanding play on the course at the 2013 Masters Tournament.
What is the most impressive part of Tianlang Guan's Masters debut?
Guan became the youngest competitor to ever play at Augusta National and the second-youngest participant in any major championship event for that matter. The fact that he's made the 36-hole cut alone is an incredible achievement.
Nevermind that he is playing the daunting stretch of Amen Corner from Nos. 10 through 13 in even-par this week, nor that he is still scoring as well as some of the planet's best players, despite attacking approach shots with fairway metals.
It's clear that Guan is mature beyond his years in the way he's dealt with everything that has come with the immense buzz he's generated. The composure he displayed after being dealt a one-stroke penalty for slow play was specifically noteworthy.
That shot endangered Guan from playing the weekend, but he ultimately made the cut on the number.
Even before his fate was decided, Guan was thankful for the opportunity at the Masters even if he didn't play the final two rounds. The following is a question from Guan's post-round interview on Friday, followed by his response (h/t Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
Q: What would you think if the penalty keeps you from making the cut now?
A: You mean if the penalty made me miss the cut? I think it’s still a great week for me. I enjoy it so far, and I learned a lot.
Augusta.com's Twitter page documented just how well Guan responded to the adverse wrench that ruling threatened to throw in his routine in Round 3:
Average pace of play for the third round of the #Masters: 4 hours, 11 minutes. Tianlang Guan finished in 3:55.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 13, 2013
Even Saturday's round of five-over 77 proved good enough to match three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson's score and bested that of world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who nosedived with a 79.
The length of Augusta National and magnitude of the Masters itself has prevented Guan from being anywhere near contention, as he's failed to notch a birdie since his wonderful opening round of 73.
But he is already set to win low amateur honors as the only one to make it through 36 holes, as the PGA TOUR's official Twitter page points out:
Tianlang Guan is in 60th place (+9) after rounds of 73-75-77 at Augusta. He'll still receive low amateur medal, as no others made the cut.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 13, 2013
Guan won't be slipping on the green jacket when he makes the journey to Butler Cabin tomorrow with this year's champion. That will have to wait for another year, where he figures to have plenty more cracks at the ultimate prize.
Having said that, he will have the silver medal as hardware to show off to his eighth-grade classmates back in his native China. After all, this precocious prodigy deserves some sort of tangible award to complement his phenomenal effort at Augusta.
The gold standard that Guan has set this week, though, has come in the form of his mental makeup, transparency and class amidst the intimidating atmosphere of one of golf's iconic venues.