AUGUSTA, Ga. — In a moment of delightfully youthful sincerity, 14-year-old Chinese amateur sensation Tianlang Guan said earlier this week that he didn’t expect to win the Masters — this year.
The numbers bear that out. Guan’s scores have risen steadily each day, from 73 on Thursday to 75 on Friday to a 5-over-par 77 on Saturday that left him at 9-over 225 for the tournament.
Although tied for 59th going into the final round, Guan is assured of being part of the green jacket ceremony Sunday night.
Guan was the only one of six amateurs in this year’s field to make the cut and the youngest player ever to make the cut in a major championship. He will be honored along with the winner as low amateur, an important distinction since the Masters was cofounded by legendary amateur champion Bobby Jones.
“It’s great for me,” Guan said. “I think I had a pretty good run in the first two days, and (Saturday) feels pretty good, not bad. I did (have) a couple unlucky (shots), but that’s golf.”
Guan spent a month in New Orleans last summer, taking part in the junior golf program at Lakewood Golf Club when he went there to participate in a U.S. Open qualifier.
A group of about 30 junior golfers got together Saturday to pose for photos to with messages wishing Guan good luck in the Masters.
Guan said he plans to visit New Orleans after the tournament.
After windy conditions forced players to endure 5½- and six-hour rounds Friday, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson zipped around Augusta National in a speedy 3 hours, 20 minutes Saturday.
The first player out, Watson played with a noncompetitive player serving as a marker. The setup suited him as he started with three straight birdies and finished with a 70.
“Who wouldn’t like that?” he asked. “All in all, it was a good day. I got to shoot under par, just to try to move up the leaderboard a little bit. I have to shoot a real low one (Sunday) to have a chance, but I’m going to come out tomorrow and just enjoy my last day as defending champ and try to shoot a decent number.”
Lefty left out
There will be no fourth green jacket for Phil Mickelson.
Like Guan, the three-time Masters champion also has seen his scores inflate each day, going from a 71 on Thursday to a 76 on Friday and a 77 on Saturday that tied his worst score ever in 21 Masters appearances.
He goes into the final round tied for 56th at 8-over 224.
“I just played terrible,” Mickelson said. “There’s no way around it. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been struggling with my ball-striking. The putter actually feels good, even though I missed a bunch. I just don’t know where it’s going to go.”
Watching the Masters
CBS begins its final round coverage at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday and will continue through the presentation of the green jacket.
Numerous online viewing opportunities begin at 10 a.m. on Masters.com, with bonus coverage online of the official green jacket ceremony.