Chinese prodigy undaunted by US Masters
Fourteen-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang told AFP he's not worried about missing the cut at Augusta next month when he becomes the youngest player ever to compete at the US Masters.
Guan will be a tender 14 years, five months and 17 days old when he tees off in the first major of the golf season, smashing the record set by Italy's Matteo Manassero in 2010 when he was aged 16.
"It's every golfer's dream to play at Augusta National," Guan said in an exclusive interview. "To be the youngest player in the history of the Masters, I feel very honoured, excited, and I'm looking forward to it."
Manassero made the cut three years ago, becoming the youngest player to make the weekend in Masters history, and he was crowned as the European Tour's youngest winner at the 2010 Castello Masters.
But Guangzhou schoolboy Guan, one of the great hopes of Chinese golf, insists he's not setting himself any targets and just wants to enjoy his debut foray into the majors.
"It's an honour for me to be able to play with the best golfers in the world," Guan said. "To me, the only goal is to enjoy the event and give my best. And of course, if I can make the cut, that would be even better.
"Matteo Manassero is a great golfer. He is also the youngest winner on the European Tour. It's always good to make the cut, but I won't give myself too much pressure on a certain target.
"I will try to embrace my first journey to the Masters as much as I can."
The length of the par-72 Augusta course, at 7,435 yards, is likely to pose problems for the slightly-built player who admits he needs to improve his distance off the tee and accuracy of his long irons and fairway woods.
Guan qualified for the prestigious tournament -- and gave himself a shot at claiming the legendary green jacket -- by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand in November by just one stroke.
He held his nerve to hole a tricky five-foot putt on the last hole to record a 15-under-par total at the Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok, pipping Pan Cheng-Tsung of Taiwan.
Now, Guan hopes to rub shoulders with his golfing hero, in-form world number two Tiger Woods.
"It will be amazing if I can play with Tiger Woods. He is my idol and I actually had the chance to play with him for two holes back in China," Guan said.
"But you know, it was not at a professional tournament and of course nothing like the Masters."
Guan, who practises for two hours every day after school, said that eight-time major winner Tom Watson and last year's Masters champion Bubba Watson were "also on my wish list" for playing partners.
Wonder-kid Guan is already a record breaker. Last April, he made history as the youngest player to take part in a European Tour event when he played the Volvo China Open in Tianjin at the age of 13 years and 177 days.
Guan started playing golf at the age of four and won the world junior title by 11 shots last year in San Diego. The Masters starts on April 11.