Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The three biggest stories of this year's
Masters were Adam Scott's playoff triumph, Dropalypse and 14-year-old amateur
Tianlang Guan's slow play penalty.
Scott's win was nearly overshadowed by Tiger Woods' drop heard 'round the
world, but another rules infraction also managed to move the needle.
Guan, the youngest-ever Masters participant, received a one-stroke penalty for
slow play during his second round, inciting accusations of bullying by
tournament officials and stoking the ever-growing pace-of-play fire.
Despite the penalty, Guan persevered and became the youngest player ever to
make the cut at the Masters. The only amateur to play on the weekend, Guan
finished at 12-over-par and took home the sterling silver cup as the 77th
edition's low amateur.
Guan is back in the field this week for the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic of New
Orleans on a sponsor's exemption and much is being made of his playing speed
(or lack thereof), but let's take a second to appreciate the kid's phenomenal
While most of his peers were playing video games and tweeting incessantly, Guan
was busy practicing with Tiger, making the cut at the Masters, and finishing
the final round alongside former champion Sandy Lyle. When it was all over,
Guan finally got down to the homework he brought with him from China.
But as fascinating as Guan's story is, it isn't necessarily unique. Over the
years, the sporting world has periodically been presented with the next
prodigy. Some have lived up to the hype, some haven't, but all have been
Talk about a prodigy. Tiger putted against Bob Hope on the "Mike Douglas Show"
at the age of 2, shot 48 for nine holes at 3 and was featured in Golf Digest at
5. Starting at 8, he won the Optimist International Junior tournament six
times, then produced three straight U.S. Amateur triumphs.
Woods turned pro in 1996 and produced two PGA Tour victories and five straight
top-5 finishes that year. In 1997, he became the youngest-ever Masters
winner at 21 years old. He won by 12 strokes.
VERDICT (Did they live up to the hype?): YES
An emphatic yes. We all know the rest of the story. Woods went on to become
perhaps the greatest golfer of all time. He is a 14-time major champion, a
nine-time PGA Tour money lead and a 10-time PGA Tour Player of the Year. And
he's still going, with three of his 77 tour wins coming this season. Enough
Ah, Michelle Wie. What could have been? She qualified for a USGA Tournament at
age 11 and by her teens was driving the ball 280 yards. At 13, she won the 2003
U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, becoming the youngest winner (male or
female) of an adult USGA-sanctioned tournament. That same year she became the
youngest player to make the cut at an LPGA tournament and major (Nabisco
At 14, Wie set her sights on the PGA Tour. The fourth female to play a PGA
Tour event, and the youngest ever, Wie missed the cut at the Sony Open in
Hawaii by a single shot. A year later, she became the first female golfer to
qualify for a USGA national men's tournament.
Wie said her ultimate goal was to play at the Masters and speculated that by
the age of 20 she could beat Tiger Woods.
Well, she's 23 and she hasn't played at the Masters and she definitely hasn't
defeated Tiger. Those were lofty goals, and Wie was widely deemed arrogant
when she publicly stated them years ago. But even by more reasonable
standards, the once-upon-a-time phenom has fallen short.
Since turning pro at 15, Wie has recorded just two LPGA Tour victories. She
hasn't made a cut on the PGA Tour and infamously missed the 2007 Sony Open cut
by 14 shots. Last year, Wie failed to make the cut in 10 of the 23 LPGA
tournaments she played.
Wie is now employing a strange putting style, in which she bends forward from
the waist at a 90-degree angle, but it hasn't produced results. She's been cut
three times and hasn't finished above 28th in seven events this season. Her
world ranking now stands at 90th.
There have been 42 NBA players taken directly out of high school, but none as
ballyhooed as LeBron James.
Playing at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, James became the first
sophomore ever selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team and was named
Ohio's Mr. Basketball the same year. He won both of those awards again as a
junior, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and earned the boys'
basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. He considered entering
the NBA Draft after that season, but returned for his senior year and won all
three awards again, while playing in nationally televised games and rolling
around in a Hummer H2.
At 18, he was selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003
James experienced immediate individual success on the court, becoming the
first member of the Cavaliers franchise and the youngest-ever player to win
the NBA Rookie of the Year award. A year later, he made his first All-Star team
and became the youngest in league history to score 50 points in a game.
But while the individual accolades piled up, James couldn't get his team over
the hump. His Cavaliers were swept in the 2006-07 NBA Finals, and three years
of playoff disappointments followed before James jumped ship.
The venom at James' "Decision" was poisonous and largely deserved, and a loss
to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2010-11 NBA Finals only added to the sting. But
James bounced back a year later, earning his first championship ring with and
NBA Finals MVP performance in a defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Heat are the favorites to repeat this year, and James has been dazzling,
legitimizing his previous prodigal status in the process.
Adu had a lot to live up after being billed as the savior of American soccer.
At 14, Adu simultaneously became the youngest and highest-paid player in
Major League Soccer when he inked with D.C. United in 2004. The justification
for the contract was simple: Adu was the next Pele.
Adu initially impressed, making 30 appearances with five goals from midfield
while helping D.C. to an MLS Cup victory at the age of 15. He was selected to
a pair of MLS All-Star teams, thrived at the 2007 U-20 World Cup, and later
that year was signed away by Portugal's Benfica for $2 million.
Adu's career has sharply plateaued. He barely played for Benfica and was sent
on loan to AS Monaco the following year with an option to join the club
permanently at the end of the season, but that option was eventually declined
by Monaco. In 2009, the Portuguese club Belenenses picked Adu up on loan, but
his season was cut short due to injury. A lackluster term in Greece with Aris
and a run with a second-division Turkish club followed.
Despite his unstable club situation, Adu was a surprise inclusion in the USA
roster for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He failed to make an appearance over
the first four matches, but he made an impact as a substitute against Panama
and started the final against Mexico, where he hand a hand in both goals of a
Adu returned to the MLS in 2011 with the Philadelphia Union and recorded seven
goals in 35 games before he was shipped to the Brazilian club Bahia this
Now 23, Adu has yet to live up to the hype.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Adu and Wie are two of many cautionary prodigal tales. But stalwarts like
Woods and James prove that sometimes it's possible to exceed even the loftiest
And while scrutiny increases in this 24/7 sports landscape, young phenoms like
Guan and his women's golf equal, 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko, appear poised
to handle the hype.
I mean, Guan went back to his homework after wrapping up an interview with
Scott, Bubba Watson and Jim Nantz in the Butler Cabin. Masters or not, how
many 14-year-olds do you know exhibit that type of discipline?
The Sports Network