Sports / Golf

Guan has his eyes on the prize

By Agence France-Presse in Shenzhen, China (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-26 07:26

Guan has his eyes on the prize

Guan Tianlang, China's teen golfing sensation, hopes to play in the Asian Games and says he's focused on building a long-term carrer. [Photo/Agencies]

Masters sensation Guan Tianlang hopes to represent China at this year's Asian Games, but he pledged not to play too many big events this year as he focuses on building a long-term career.

The 15-year-old amateur shot a disappointing 76 in the second round of the China Open on Friday to sit three shots off the projected cut - a far cry from his scintillating Masters exploits a year ago.

Last April at Augusta, Guan earned rave reviews when he became the youngest player to make the cut in a major championship, aged just 14 years and five months.

He followed that by reaching the weekend play at his next PGA event, the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, but a missed cut at December's Hong Kong Open ended a breakthrough year on a quiet note.

However, the Guangzhou schoolboy is confident he's on the right path, and he will play fewer professional tournaments this year as he carefully plots his road to success.

"I think I'm definitely making the right progress," Guan said at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen.

"Last year I had a great tournament (at the Masters) and lots of great experiences, and this year I didn't want to play too many tournaments at first because it's still not the right time.

"Last year I played maybe 10 to 12. I played in a couple of really big ones. so I got great experience from that."

Guan appears comfortable in the spotlight and he is a star attraction at the 20th edition of China's national championship, a $3.2 million event co-sanctioned by the European Tour and OneAsia.

He opened with a solid one-under-par 71 on Thursday, but struggled on the greens in round two, missing short putts for par at 18 and finishing with a four-over 76 to leave him at plus three.

The cut is expected to be around even par.

"I'm a little bit disappointed; my swing just wasn't there," he said, adding that perhaps the lack of recent tournament play was a factor.

China's youngest hope for golfing glory is happy to bide his time, saying he has no immediate plans to turn professional and no timeline for when he'd like to break into the world's top ranks.

"I'm focusing on my schooling and my body," the slight youngster said, referring to his effort to bulk up in a bid to get more distance on his shots.

"I don't have any plans for a timetable yet. To keep playing in high-level tournaments is wonderful, so I'm not thinking about it yet."

Guan has stopped using a long-handled putter, which will be banned starting in 2016, and said he feels "confident" with the conventional length.

China is yet to have a truly recognizable golfing superstar - its highest players in the rankings currently are Liang Wenchong at 137 and Wu Ashun at 144.

But at the China Open, top players Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter said it won't be long before that changes, with the world No 3 Swede singling out Guan for praise.

"When I first came here the local players were at the bottom of the results list, but over the past few years their results are getting better and better," Stenson said.

"We had a 14-year-old Chinese player making the cut at last year's Masters. If you had put me out at Augusta at the age of 14 I think 90 would have been a good score for me. It is very impressive."

Poulter echoed that sentiment.

"There will be a Chinese major champion," he said. "I am not saying that will happen in two years or five years, but it will happen."

Guan's main goal now is focusing on representing China at the Asian Games in South Korea in September.

"I really hope I can play for my country," he said. "I'm not sure if I will be selected, but I'm hopeful."

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