Tiger Woods fears almost nothing in golf, but having 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang set to become the youngest starter in Masters history has sent a shiver down his spine.
Guan had not been born when Woods won his first major title at the 1997 Masters, but the Asian schoolboy has been inspired by Woods and has spent the past month in Augusta prep-aring for his historic debut on Thursday. "It's frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters," Woods said. "I mean, that's just frightening."
Woods, 37, played in his first Masters at age 19 and Italy's Matteo Manassero, at age 16 in 2010, had been the youngest player in Masters history until now.
Guan qualified for his historic moment at Augusta National Golf Club by winning last year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand.
"I'm so excited," Guan said. "I'm really happy to become the youngest player at the Masters."
Guan, a native of Guangzhou, was born on October 25, 1998 and has intently studied Woods. "It's exciting that I have inspired kids to play and not just here in the States but obviously in China and around the world," Woods said. "The game has become global... we're going to have a lot of players from countries that traditionally haven't been into golf that are going to start to play this game at a high level."
Helping that cause has been golf's inclusion in the list of Olympic sports starting with Rio 2016. "With the Olympics being involved, government funding is going to be involved trying to get these kids to that type of level, and that's only going to make it better for golf."
That could put Woods and Guan, rivals this week for the green jacket symbolic of a Masters champion, on a collision course once again in three years for another epic prize - Olympic gold.