SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Tianlang Guan is gearing up for what he hopes is a return to the Masters.
Guan is defending champion next week at the Asia-Pacific Amateur, to be played at Nanshan International Golf Club in China. The winner gets an invitation to the Masters. The 14-year-old from China not only became the youngest player in a 72-hole major, he made the cut at Augusta National despite a two-shot penalty for slow play.
Guan turns 15 during the second round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, which is stroke play. He said Tuesday more people recognize him in China, but that his Masters appeared helped accelerate growth of golf in his homeland.
"I think all of the Chinese people are happy for me, and I think more and more people know about golf in China," Guan said during a conference call. "And more people know about the Masters, and I think it means a lot to the young players in China and they think probably the Masters is not that far away from them."
Guan also made the cut in New Orleans, and then missed the cut in three other PGA Tour events.
The one big change for this year – the teenager is no longer using a belly putter. He said he switched to a conventional method a month ago.
"I didn't think it's too much different and which one is better," he said. "I think I change back probably a month ago, and I think – I wish – I can putt even better."
MAJOR PERKS: U.S. Open champion Justin Rose took advantage of some of the perks attached to winning a major.
He sat in the Royal Box when Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Another treat was his annual "J.R. Challenge," when 10 of his best mates from England get together once a year to play golf and get caught up.
"This year being U.S. Open champion, I felt like I could call in a couple more favors, and we played some great tracks," Rose said at the PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda. "We played Pine Valley. We went back to Merion. So to have the opportunity to bring 10 of my best friends to Merion and a play a round of golf was very special."
NA'S BACK: When last seen on the PGA Tour, Kevin Na was playing the Masters against his doctor's advice and ringing up a 10 on the par-3 12th hole at Augusta National.
He finally made his return last week in the Frys.com Open, and after opening with a 75, felt better than ever. Na bounced back with a 67 to make the cut, and a 64-64 week gave him a tie for third.
"I just tore it up on the weekend – just absolutely tore it up," he said.
Na went to South Korea for his rehabilitation. He spent more than two months going through acupuncture, chiropractic work and physical therapy, and then he returned to America to slowly start practicing again. He played one Web.com Tour event to make sure his back was good, and off he went.
His next stop is Las Vegas, where he won his only PGA Tour event two years ago.
TRIPLE DIGITS: David Duval had just reached No. 1 in the world for the first time. Tiger Woods had eight PGA Tour wins and one major to his credit. And an Irishman named Padraig Harrington was on the cusp of cracking the top 100 in the world.
Harrington reached No. 100 on April 18, 1999, and he stayed in the top 100 for the last 14 years. The streak ended this week when he fell to No. 101.
Does he think he can add to his total of three majors, even though he has gone five years without?
"I do, but I have to figure out a different way with playing who Padraig Harrington is now than necessarily who I was over the years," Harrington said. "I'm a different person and I have a different attitude to the game at this stage, so I have to work with that. ... I have to figure out what's the best way of getting the best game out of me now."
DIVOTS: David Duval did not get a sponsor's exemption to the Frys.com Open, so he went to Puerto Rico to play on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica and tied for 37th. He is playing Las Vegas this week. ... Geoff Ogilvy missed the 54-hole cut last week in the Frys.com Open and fell out of the top 100 for the first time since August 2003. ... John Cook will be inducted into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame next week outside Los Angeles.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Russell Knox, who was No. 132 in driving distance in his only other year on the PGA Tour, had the longest drive of the Frys.com Open last week at 378 yards on the 18th hole at CordeValle. The measurement did not include the number of times his ball hit the cart path.
FINAL WORD: "I'll play somewhere with Zach Johnson, and he points out we'll be eating dinner together until they put us in the ground. I look forward to that kind of stuff." – Adam Scott, citing the Champions Dinner as one of the perks of winning the Masters.