As he prepares to participate in a clinic with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in China, Guan Tianlang will not be making a return trip to Augusta National to play in the Masters.
Guan, who made history last year by earning an invitation to the year’s first major championship at just 14 years old, finished eight strokes behind winner Lee Chang-woo at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Nanshan International. Failing to make a single birdie in Sunday’s final round, it became quickly evident that Guan would be unable to defend his 2012 title.
Guan’s emergence as a teenage phenom last year was nothing short of inspirational, to be sure, but to me, this just seems like the inevitable progression of an overexposed player’s game. There’s almost no way that he wasn’t going to have some struggles keeping up with the standards that both he and those of us who follow the sport set last year.
After making the cut at the Masters, and then again at the Zurich Classic, Guan missed the cut in each of the three events he played on sponsor’s exemptions in 2013. His average driving distance of 262.1 yards ranked 181st on the PGA Tour, and his greens-in-regulation percentage of just 51.19% matched that rank – dead last. As impressive as his start was, his skill set just isn’t good enough to play these kinds of tournaments yet.
I still think that what Guan is doing can only be good for the sport as a while, especially in China, but I also wonder if all the exposure is good for his own game. He certainly seems to have the right attitude for it all, and he’s gotten glowing endorsements from Woods, but after getting such publicity, how long will it be before the people around him start expecting him to win everything he enters?
Hopefully Guan can continue to find some balance between his golf life and his personal life. Mingling with the superstars of golf is fun, but it’ll still take some time before he can be one himself.