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Huggan Takes A Closer Look at Guan Tianlang's Game

John Huggan got a good look at 14-year-old Guan Tianlang during last week's Australian Open and says the 2013 Masters qualifier may find Augusta National overwhelming.

Still, as his playing companion alluded to, Guan’s slightness of stature and relative youth mean he is presently nowhere near long enough off the tee to compete successfully at professional level. Downwind, his lack of oomph is less noticeable but into the wind it is readily apparent. On average, Guan’s tee-shots expired a good 60-70 yards before those of the powerful Leishman, who is, admittedly, not exactly short.

Unless Guan manages to add 50 yards to his drives and maybe 50 pounds to his relatively puny physique, it is hard to imagine him being able to reach many of Augusta’s par-4s in regulation, or, in turn, break 80 in either of the two rounds he is surely destined to play in the 2013 Masters.

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Reader Comments (30)

Amazing that an accomplished writer would take the time to write that article...maybe he had bad Chinese for lunch and took it out on the kid. Regardless I won't be rushing back to read an opinion piece from Huggan anytime soon.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Sullivan
Jim, was there something in the article that you found to be factually untrue or offensive?
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Yep...the fact that the kid wins a major amateur event and likely an invitation to the Masters also earns the author the right to say the kid stinks.

I guess I would ask what the point was? Any guesses?
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Sullivan
Gotta go way out on a limb to predict a 14 year old will struggle at the Masters. Most disappointing tidbit from the article is that the kid is slow.
If you don't like the message - shoot the messenger! This 14-years old young man should not be playing in The Masters and Huggie is only pointing out the reasons why. It's a travesty!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
I think we're lucky to have had this kind of on-site reporting about the lad and his game. And Huggan is a great observer, so he wrote a column expressing his view.

But the bigger picture issue that I'm sure Huggan would love to delve into had he had more space is this question of golf's youth obsession brought on by technology dumbing down the pro game. Riding the coattails of 15 year olds did not do anyone any good in tennis, and we can only hope that the same kind of things don't happen in golf that happened in tennis.
12.10.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
I would like to see Huggie lose 50 pounds to his relatively cuddly physique.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlair
The invitation to the Masters is not in question, the kid is in. A couple of the lords actually turned up to hand the kid the trophy.

My read on the article is that Huggan is taking a not so subtle jab at the lords of Augusta and the end result of this Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship -- a champion (and toonamint invitee) who is wholly unprepared to participate, much less compete, in The Masters.

This isn't Guan's fault. He seems like a nice and well adjusted young kid. He showed up at the APAC and won it, secured The Masters invite....but clearly the test wasn't stringent enough to be rewarded with a Masters invite. This APAC looks like a nice little tournament but attaching a Masters invite to it is just completely laughable!

Now, the fact that he's glacially slow, that's new news! And the long putter surely won't help with his popularity amongst a certain segment of the golfing establishment. Kind of amazing that he'd actually show up at a tour event and dare to be the slowest player in the group....AND come within one bad time of a slow play penalty!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I would say he has an equal chance of winning as anyone coming out of the US or the British Ams. What is the point of inviting them ? Same for the Asian Am winner.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Watched him on the weekend at the Lakes - for as long as I could handle. He's slow, plays like a mechanic and uses a belly putter. Enough said. I suspect he's somewhat of a 'one hit wonder'
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIanB
"the kid wins a major amateur event..." When did he do that? He did win something that got him into the Masters and that in and of itself is a great accomplishment. I hope he enjoys his experience. Still, how many other amateur tournament routes into the Masters have a geographically limited field and then further limit the number of contestants from the strongest golf nations in that region of the world? US and British Am? US Mid-Am? Publinx? Nope. Just because the PTB in Golf, primarily those wearing Green Jackets, decreed this to be a Major Amateur Event doesn't make it so. As for inviting amateurs who "have no chance to win," that is one of the points of the Masters. And it should stay that way, along with the lifetime invitation for former winners, as long as they don't mind playing a course to a par-76 for most of them.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
As I've always said, the Masters is the weakest of the major fields by far. Small number of entries, former winners overstaying their capabilities and dubious invites. Still, they've crafted a brand that folks wait in line for years to behold. Clever.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAverage Golfer
Exactly KLG, nothing major about the event he won, except that it has the coveted Masters invite attached to it. In the scope of international amateur golf the field probably isn't even top-100.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
The idea that ANY legitimate golf story should be "off limits" is ludicrous. Huggan should be commended for providing early insight into a story that will be a major topic of discussion come next April. Anyone who says he should have simply skipped the topic doesn't understand 1) journalism 2) golf 3) golf fans.

Later posts, however, do accurately call attention to the rather desperate and heavy-handed attempt by Augie Nat to force the issue in Asia. Does attaching a Masters bid to the winner of a tournament that, by nature and locale, attracts perhaps the most mediocre field in big-time amateur golf result in a certain stigma? In my eyes, absolutely. Promoting the game in Asia is fine but when you allow what is likely to be a certifiably unqualified kid/child into a major tournament, you run the risk of embarrassment -- both for the competitor and the event. My guess is an 87 and an 81.

Better question: why doesn't The Masters invite the winner of the NCAA championship, arguably the toughest, most fluke-free tournament in amateur golf?
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBenSeattle

If Huggan would rather delve into the technology debate and its dumbing down of pro golf he could have and chose not to. This hatchet piece on a 14 year old kid is pathetic. Not off-limits (Ben) just pathetic.

When is the last time someone wrote a hatchet piece on a qualifier into either the US or British Open that shot 80 in the main event?

Assuming this really is an attack on Augusta promotion of the event, fair enough but can you name two better amateur event outside the US?
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Sullivan
It is almost as if Augusta was trying to overcompensate for its lack of female members, as was the case when this tournament was created. It is like they shouted, "Sure we don't let women in, but we have no problem with Asians. Just look at us putting on this event." And I'd argue that yes, the winner of the US Am has a better shot at winning -- or at least making the cut -- than this kid who will likely shoot rounds starting with an "8." Remember Matt Kuchar? He certainly justified his spot in the tournament.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thompson
The low amateur from the previous two masters came from the Asian Am, and btw Guan beat him - along with some other rather accomplished Ams. When was the last time the US Mid-Am champ made the cut at Augusta?

The issue isn't that the Asian Am gets an invite, it's that the Masters (and golf in general) glorifies the Am, and thats just silly. Amateurs are either people who are training to be a pro, or who weren't good enough to make it. MLB doesn't invite the best college player to participate in the WS, golf shouldn't be either.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElf
Elf, Matsuyama was the lone WAGR top-10 entry in the tourney Guan won, and only 6 of the WAGR top-50 were present. If Matsuyama stayed amateur he could probably play 6 or 7 Masters through the Asia Am event, the fiield is that shallow. Only about a dozen players are true contenders each year...possibly 18 in a great year.

Contrast that with the US Am where 100% of the WAGR top-50 are exempt into stroke play and 300+ guys play 36 holes just to get into match play and then have a marathon from there. At Cherry Hills this year Matsuyama shot 73-72 to finish T82 and miss match play by 2 shots.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Anyone who is honest about it would guesstimate the ''players'' at ANGC at around 45 or so...the rest of the field is filler-some which we like seeing, some who are invited to keep certain traditions going- and I have no problem with that. This is the weakest field, BY FAR, of the majors- and for that reason, I have lobbied for The Players to be rightfully addressed as a major- the most money , the strongest field, and the same track every year..and now it has that needed ingredient to make anything a step above ---history.

But back to Augusta and the article- it stirred interest and conversation, certainly a mark of a good piece. I wish the player well, and I congratulate him on his win- and I hope he keeps both under 90, and is not slow or bellying by then. If he is using the putting aid, I don't care if he breaks 100.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
BenSeattle consistently nails things around here and does so again, except for Guan's score--he predicts 168. That's too charitable. The fact the kid titty-bumps it out there, can't hit the ball high or spin it very well, and is inexperienced and will be nervous, I see it more like 172. If it's wet/cold and/or the wind howls, and doesn't putt well, it could be considerably higher. The bookmakers will start him off with on O/U of 78 or 79, and I will load up on the overe
That isn't maligning the young man, it's measuring his game against the challenges all players will face--something writers do every year. Huggan was completely fair in his assessments. I'm pulling for young Guan, and will be very curious as to what time he plays the first two days, and with whom. I'll bet they give him a good pairing.
@Jim Sullivan: Masters coverage is not daycare. Guan is a curiosity with his age, size and being almost completely unknown. A frank, but respectful, evaluation of is game is going to transpire--it's what writers do.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor
It's not his message it is his delivery. The message is fair and accurate. But calling the kind puny instead of small in stature wreaks of a guy with an ax to grind. Probably like most here, against the Masters establishment that allows these kinds of invites. No reason to use a method of writing that seems to want to put the kid down rather than comment on his real issue.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenteramatuerGolfer
He won't be last and he won't be the worst Amateur. That means this story is unnecessary.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
As I've noted in response to a previous discussion about the same player, it's worthwhile considering a few facts..

Oliver Goss, an 18yo amateur from Western Australian who won his state OPEN title in October, couldn't beat Tianling at the event in question (Asian Amateur).
Goss hits it as far as Adam Scott (which I saw while following both of them at the Australian Masters).
Goss and Tianling both shot the same score in missing the cut by 4 shots at last weeks Australian Open at The Lakes.
If Goss was playing at Augusta next year, and not Tianling, everybody would be hailing a star of the future.
Tianling may be at a distance disadvantage at the moment, but the kid has obviously got LOADS of game, other wise he couldn't have shot 2 under in the 2nd round of the Aust. Open on a day when a stack of experienced pros would have killed to shoot a 70.
If you're not long, but you're a proven winner, you must have a hell of a short game. That same prowess would probably be handy around somewhere where there's an extra emphasis on your ability to get it up and down.

I do hope he speeds his play up beyond its current glacier-like level, but I also wish that for way too many to count.

Next April promises to be fascinating in so many ways, doesn't it?
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFester
Huggan has always come across as a decent journalist, but not a decent human being.

Let's wish the kid well
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStord
Still ... Geoff raises a valid point. Would these kids be getting talked about like this had they not had access to cavity-backed irons, springy-headed drivers, belly putters, a veritable array of specialist wedges not to mention supersonic balls! Can't just be down to improved access to tournament golf, surely. Indeed, does the hothousing of children provide the most graphic indictment of the state of the game today?
Some truly bizarre comments here to a truly bizarre, almost racist article...

While some of the points here about the tournament not being worthy of having its winner invited to The Masters do at least have validity, this isn't the "writer's" point. His "article" is clearly a rant by a d^*k measuring journalist who seems like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed (i.e., the one with a mirror on the wall).

After calling a kid not even out of puberty yet "puny" and a "pop gun shooter" who will maybe be given a chance to "play from the women's tees" at The Masters, he actually goes on to then smear the talented kid with the Chinese n-word: "inscrutable." (Sure, sure he distances himself from the offense by pretending he's aware of his own cliche, but this is no excuse for a professional saying something moronic like this in public.) Take the kid to task for his slow play, fine. But since when is golf a sport reserved for giants?

What would Huggan have called Hogan at age 14 -- "a duck hooking skinny little twirp with a temper?"

And the fact that he sees "all the Chinese kids on the range" as soulless "clones" who make the future of golf look "bleak" only caps off the rant with the kind of drunken insensitivity that an increasingly global sport doesn't deserve, let alone need, from its "journalists."
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
One of my pet peeves is the shaved headed guy who has poor judgement in selecting glasses frames, you know-Tim Rosaforte---how he constantly uses ''the kid'' in his TGC punditry work. This is often referring to PGA players who can be as old as in their mid 30's though usually it is in reference to a player in his 20's.

And so here is this 14 year old young man, whom has been referred to about 50-100 times in this thread alone aa ''the kid'', and probably by me as well. Very annoying. He really is not a kid.

And Rosaforte-man up- look in a mirror- you look like an alien.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Sorry, but no-one was questioning the ablities of the previous winner of the Asian-Pacific Amateur (Hideki Masuyama) when he made the cut at the Masters, TWICE.? And need I remind anyone that Hideki was also a part of the field this year when Guan won. Guan deserves high praise for winning such a pretigious tournament at such a young age, and I hope he will make the cut at the Masters.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDylan
Huggan sinks to a new low by expressing his racism via a hatchett job on a very talented boy.

The kid started badly, but shot 1-over on a tough course for his final 27 holes. Well done.

The word inscrutable had to be crowbarred into the story, despite Huggan suddenly having an aversion to cliches. Never seemed to bother him before.

Chinese golfers all look the same to him? Unlike the vast array of personalities and styles among US golfers? Europeans do seem a bit more varied both as golfers and humans, but give a bit of leeway to a country relatively new to the game and its teaching techniques.

If 80 is good enough for Jack and Arnie well past their prime, it's good enough for a kid well before his prime.

As others have pointed out, when was the last time the Public Links champion competed at the Masters. Michelle Wie had a crack at getting into the Masters via that route. She regularly shoots in the 80s off the ladies tees.

Leave the kid alone, Huggan. And leave China alone, too. They can actually defend themselves.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlackballed Vijay
Dylan, we talked about Matsuyama up above, check it out. Matsuyama is a nice player but he's not all that and doesn't "make" the Asia-Pac AM field. Heck, Matsuyama didn't even make it to match-play at the US Am.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF

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