AUGUSTA, Ga. — Late Thursday afternoon, Ben Crenshaw, twice a Masters champion, walked to the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, and was greeted with great warmth by the throngs on hand. That Crenshaw was able to roll in one final birdie, at age 61, brought cheers.
But the most remarkable member of Crenshaw’s group in the first round of the Masters was undoubtedly Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China who is the youngest competitor in the 77-year history of the tournament. Before Crenshaw closed out his 80, Guan rolled in a 20-footer for a birdie of his own, the shot that closed out an impressive round of 1-over-par 73.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Guan said afterward.
Guan, who qualified by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, has gotten the most out of his week here thus far, playing practice rounds with Crenshaw and Tiger Woods, among others, gaining tips along the way.
“I feel comfortable on this course,” he said, and that showed in making birdies at 10, 13 and 18. When Guan’s final putt rolled into the cup, he took off his cap and waved it to the crowd. Crenshaw was among those clapping along.
“I’m telling you, he played like a veteran today,” Crenshaw said. “He played like a journeyman, a 28-year-old journeyman who’s been around the block, made a ton of cuts. He played a beautiful round of golf.”
Could he win this event?
“Um . . . I think probably not this year,” Guan said. “But I think I can win it in the future.”
David Lynn, a 39-year-old from England, has played in three majors in his life — the 2003 British Open, last year’s PGA Championship, and this Masters. Last August at Kiawah, he finished as the runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the PGA.
“Certainly it gives you a little extra belief,” Lynn said, and he opened with a solid 4-under 68. This gives Lynn a chance to show off his eccentric personality. He is active on Twitter, and one of his favorite pastimes is sending out pictures of himself “planking” in various places around the world. Might he at the Masters?
“I’d like to be able to come back,” he said. . . .
Bubba Watson began defense of his Masters title with a drive well right of the first fairway, a shot that led to the first bogey of a difficult day in which he shot 3-over 75.. . .
Rickie Fowler opened his Masters with a double bogey, followed with four birdies in his next eight holes to make the turn at 2 under, and then hit his approach at 10 into a bush — another double bogey. Given that, his 4-under 68 — with an eagle and six birdies — seems more remarkable.