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GUAN DEFENDS: Guan Tianlang 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 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.

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