He will play in the Masters even though he was born in 1998, so let us all take a moment to kill ourselves.
Guan Tianlang could be just one remarkable boy or he could be some sort of golf signpost. He could be just this spritely face who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Bangkok by one shot as the youngest player in the field -- one would hope he was, anyway -- or he could tell us a whole bunch of big things. He certainly sends the brain running off and scampering around and turning up with crazy thoughts.
He could be just one person who was still 13 when October dawned, and who will become the youngest player ever in the Masters field next April 11, and nothing more than that even though that's plenty. Or he could transcend golf and sports to give an emphatic reiteration of what has seemed clear for some time now: that teenagers are stronger, savvier and more capable than they have ever been, as if some jaw-dropping evolutionary force persists.
Think of it. Guan won on Sunday and won wire-to-wire, yet all through Monday we had yet to see the predictable wave of suggestion that it all might be something unhealthy. We have seen enough of these cases to make this almost commonplace. We have seen Matteo Manassero win twice -- twice! -- on the European tour before he reached age 18. We have seen Ryo Ishikawa fly over the Pacific, say hello at 17 and finish 20th in a Masters and 27th in a British. (Well, did you?) We have seen 14-year-old Chinese amateur Andy Zhang play a U.S. Open and shoot 78-79 at Olympic in San Francisco. (Well, did you?) We have seen Noh Seung-yul win on the Asian Tour at 17 and in an Asian-European co-sanctioned event at 18. (Well, did you?)
We have seen the Californian 17-year-old Beau Hossler briefly lead the U.S. Open -- on Saturday.
(Well, did you?)
Tennis has its age rules, and good for that, and the NBA and NFL have their age rules, and good for that, but golf would be different, and by now Guan hits us only as delightful, with the only disturbing aspect his use of a belly putter. While that comes as it usually does, as a devastating signal of the decline of all human civilization, and while that might prove an inconvenience if various golf honchos do outlaw the wretched thing, the rest of Guan's story more than counterbalances.
So he could be one remarkable boy audacious enough to wish out loud for a practice round at Augusta with Tiger Woods, or he could be more. He could be further evidence of the tilt of the world away from the United States.
Not only does this child from Guangzhou, China's third-largest city checking in at close to 13 million, lend further wakeup to golf in the world's largest country and its population of 1,343,239,923, but he becomes the latest bit of noise to emanate from a fresh golfing place. As he sends the brain scrambling, he sends it to thinking again that the configuration of major tournaments seems ever more incongruous to reality.
He makes me go back and look to see that 15 of the last 24 men's major winners have hailed from outside the United States, with seven of the last 24 hailing from outside of the United States and Europe, including the second- and third-ever titles from South America (the under-appreciated Angel Cabrera) and the first from Asia (Y.E. Yang). Then Guan makes me think of the South Korean revolution of women's golf, a story both ordinary (by now) and downright extraordinary (in the game's history), a barrage of strong women winning despite the inconvenience of jet lag and homesickness.
He makes me wonder why 75 percent of the majors would be in one country anymore (even as that country thought up the majors concept), why so many great players have to play all their majors on the road, why there isn't a fifth major title somewhere new, preferably Asia.
So he could be one remarkable kid who succeeds even though he doesn't hit the ball very far, itself a curiosity, or he could be a beacon of bigger things, such as another little bit of cure of Americans' harmful and inexcusable ignorance of geography. For a few days next spring at least, he could become the latest jot of reminder that the world has changed, that little of the change has warranted blame for anyone running the United States, that the energy of the world seems ever more divided and diffuse. (If you don't believe that, visit, oh, India.)
Further, given that Augusta National saw fit to include the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in its qualification fold in the first place, Guan could be supply evidence that Augusta National is on the -- whoa -- sociological vanguard.
He could be all or some of that. Or he could be just one remarkable 14-year-old who is coming to the Masters next April and who for now weighs, charmingly, 125 pounds.