Watson marvels at China's 14-year-old Master
ALMOST half a century ago it might have been, but Tom Watson - the oldest competitor at this week's Australian Open - remembers what he felt at 14, the age of the youngest tournament entries at The Lakes.
''I dreamt about playing Augusta at 14 years old,'' Watson said on Tuesday.
China's Guan Tianlang will play at Augusta next year at 14. And Watson, the eight-time major champion, cannot see many downsides.
Tom Watson … against golf at the Olympics. Photo: Brendan Esposito
''There is a danger - but I don't think so in this case,'' Watson, 63, said. ''This young man has been cultured into golf. I've read some of his history. Golf is his life. We have seen a lot of golf prodigies, many of whom did not make it. Is there a danger of that? Yes, there is. But if I had that chance at 14, I'd jump at it. I'd be at Augusta quicker than you could spit.''
Open organisers resisted the urge to pair old(er) with new (Guan is joined in the field by fellow countryman and fellow 14-year-old Andy Zhang). Instead, Guan will play with Australians Robert Allenby and Marc Leishman in the first two rounds.
''Fourteen - geez, when I was 14, I was playing at Royal Melbourne for my first time,'' Allenby said. ''I think it's great. I've never met him; I don't know what he looks like. But for a 14-year-old kid to do what he did, it's pretty awesome.''
"This young man has been cultured into golf. I've read some of his history. Golf is his life" ... Tom Watson on China's Guan Tianlang, pictured. Photo: AP
Is it too early to be playing in the Masters?
''Does it matter?'' Allenby said. ''He has no option, does he? He's just playing golf - that's all he's doing. If he plays and wins … obviously he won the right tournament, so he's going to play at Augusta. That's pretty awesome.''
On Tuesday, Watson practised with Australia's highest-ranked player, Adam Scott; they are perhaps the two biggest drawcards in this year's tournament.
Watson was in an opinionated mood before he hit, disapproving of golf's inclusion in the Olympic Games in 2016 as well as lamenting golf's expanded schedule.
''You've got the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup,'' he said. ''You have the World Golf Championships. You have golf in the Olympics. You have diluted the importance, in a sense, of the four major championships. Is that good? It is good for the players. It gives them a chance to play for a lot more money in a lot more important tournaments but it does not help the smaller tournaments.''