x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Watch your tail, Tiger

Tiger Woods, still only 36, may now be hearing the footsteps of a truly young golfer: there is a 14-year-old competing in this year's US Open.

Remember this name: Andy Zhang. At just 14, the Beijing-born golfer has become the youngest player to compete at the US Open since the Second World War, and probably since its inception in 1895. Now, consider that he wasn't even born when his hero Tiger Woods, still regarded as a youngster at 36, won his first major, the 1997 Masters. And consider the humility, enthusiasm and respect for the game's heroes Zhang displayed when he fronted a pre-tournament media conference. Speaking comfortably in English, his second language, he said: "I heard Jack Nicklaus was sitting in this chair this morning. Was he? Yeah? So I'm trying to get used to this."

The fact that he was there was a matter of prodigious and precocious talent, with a little luck thrown in for good measure. He was the alternate who got his shot at the big time when English player Paul Casey pulled out because of a shoulder injury.

Reports from San Francisco have it that the "old-timers", including 30-somethings Aaron Baddeley and Bubba Watson, have given a warm welcome to the Florida-based newcomer. But meeting Woods on the driving range was the highlight of the practice session. "He actually came up to me and shook my hand," Zhang said. "And I was like, 'Wow, I just shook Tiger's hand.' "

Perhaps soon, Woods will be looking over his shoulder.