Guan Tianlang with Tiger Woods at the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions Pro-Am Competition
Guan Tianlang, who only turned 14 a week ago and has come through the HSBC's junior programme in these parts, handed in an opening 66 which featured as many as eight birdies. "My putting was fantastic," he said. "I don't hit the ball far so I had to take all my chances."
Tianlang is currently being talked about in the same breath as Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old Korean New Zealander who, earlier this season won the US Amateur championship and followed up with a victory in the Canadian Open, a full-scale event on the LPGA Tour. Last November, the Guangzhou schoolboy became the youngest ever winner of the China Amateur, while he this year went down as the youngest player ever to have competed in a European Tour event - namely, the China Open.
"It's amazing what's happening in China," said Michael Tate from the R&A.
When Tate first came to China in 1997, in the days when he was a high-ranking official with the European Tour, the game was still a little raw. Indeed, he remembers how, at the Beijing International GC, the rough merged with fairways and preferred lies were the norm.
"Now," said Tate, looking out across the greens and fairways of the Olazabal Course, "everything's perfect. There's been a sea change."
Tate has been similarly taken with the size and enthusiasm of the galleries this week. Just as spectators at the Players' championship at Sawgrass tend to gravitate towards the slope above the short 17th, so those at Mission Hills have been converging on the back of the 15th green.
There, they can see players hit into the water one minute and catching the vast swale behind the back of the green the next. For much of the morning, there were more sympathetic sighs than cheers. The local youngsters, meantime, were chasing round after the players in general and Bubba Watson in particular. The American would seem to be a firm favourite in these parts.
"The fact that golf has become an Olympic sport has definitely stirred things up out here," says Tate. "It's going to be fascinating to see what the future holds."
Louis Oosthuizen was the early leader yesterday, stacking up the birdies like the teenage Guan Tianlang. In his first 14 holes, he had five birdies and an eagle. At that point, he was three ahead of Phil Mickelson and four clear of Adam Scott and Peter Hanson.