Jason Day could have sent the kid home early with a birdie from just off the front of the green on the 18th hole. But the Australian was wide left and tapped in for par, giving him a 4-under 68 and a one-shot lead over fellow Aussie Marc Leishman and the ageless Fred Couples. The par meant that Guan, who had one shot added to his score on the 17th hole for his second bad time of the round, made the cut under the 10-shot rule.
"If I can make it, I would be really happy for it," Guan said some five hours earlier. "But if I didn't make it, it's still a great week."
He's now part of a weekend at Augusta that should be as dynamic as ever.
Day was at 6-under 138, and 18 players were within four shots of the lead, including Tiger Woods.
Woods moved into a share of the lead with a two-putt birdie on the eighth hole, and his game looked to be as sharp as ever perhaps too sharp. Right when it looked like he might take the outright lead, Woods hit a lob wedge that was so perfect it hit the flag on the par-5 15th and caromed backward off the green and into the water. Instead of having a short birdie putt, he had to scramble to save bogey.
Woods posed over another shot on the 18th and was stunned to see it hop onto the upper shelf, leading to his second three-putt bogey of the week. He had to settle for a 71, though he was still only three shots out of the lead.
"My score doesn't quite indicate how well I played today," Woods said.
Day, a runner-up at the Masters two years ago, can be one of the most exciting players in golf when his game is on, and he was firing at flags from everywhere Friday. Even from the pine straw under the trees on the dangerous 11th, the Aussie took dead aim at the pin and set up a rare birdie to join the leaders.
His only blunder was hitting into the water short of the 12th, though he still managed to escape with bogey, and then he fired a 4-wood low enough to stay below the trees and avoid the wind on the 13th, setting up a two-putt birdie.
He was cognizant of the guys behind him Woods included though just as much pressure comes from trying to be the first Australian in a green jacket.
"The moment I start worrying about other players is the moment I start losing focus on what I need to do, and when I do that, I'll start making bogeys," Day said. "It's obviously great to have the lead. I'm very excited for the challenge over the next two days. It really is exciting to have the opportunity to win the Masters. I'm very, very happy where I am right now."
The 53-year-old Couples, who shared the 36-hole lead last year at the Masters, birdied the 18th hole for a 71 and will play in the final group.
"I did tee off Thursday with the idea of playing well, and now it's Friday afternoon late. I'm surprised, but I'm not going to freak out over it," Couples said.
Former Masters champion Angel Cabrera birdied five of his last six holes for a 69 and was in the group two shots behind, along with former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (71) and Brandt Snedeker (70). Woods was at 3-under 141 with six others, including Adam Scott (72), Lee Westwood (71) and Justin Rose (71).
And still in the mix was Rory McIlroy, who turned his fortunes around with a 5-wood from about 275 yards that set up a short eagle putt. He added three more birdies on the back nine and had a 70, leaving him only four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.
"Anything under par today was going to be a good score," McIlroy said.
The hole locations were severe in spots, with one pin tucked on top of a mound toward the front of the fifth green. The par 5s played into an opposite wind on the back nine, and they were not easy to reach. Furyk got home in two on the 15th hole Thursday with a hybrid. He used that same club to lay up on Friday.
Such tough conditions made the performance of Guan that much more impressive. He had a respectable 75, which included the one-shot penalty.
And for the longest time, it looked like it might be costly.
Day's 68 was the lowest score of the round, with conditions so tricky that only five players broke 70.
"It just feels like every shot is the biggest shot you've ever hit in your life out there," Day said. "It's really, really difficult. I'm just glad to be in the clubhouse right now."
One player who didn't recover was Sergio Garcia, who opened with a 66. One day after six birdies and no bogeys, he had four bogeys and no birdies. One day after he saw so many shots go where he was aiming, he couldn't cope with the wind.
Jason Day -6
Fred Couples -5
Marc Leishman -5
Angel Cabrera -4
Jim Furyk -4
Brandt Snedeker -4
Tiger Woods -3
Rory McIlroy -2
Phil Mickelson +3
Guan Tianlang +4
Mike Weir* +7
O Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Ch. 2 •
Saturday's tee times
Note • a-amateur; all times MT
7:25 a.m. • Bubba Watson
7:35 a.m. • John Peterson, Ryo Ishikawa
7:45 a.m. • Lucas Glover, Branden Grace
7:55 a.m. • Thorbjorn Olesen, a-Guan Tianlang
8:05 a.m. • Peter Hanson, John Huh
8:15 a.m. • Martin Kaymer, Robert Garrigus
8:25 a.m. • Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson
8:35 a.m. • Stewart Cink, D.A. Points
8:45 a.m. • Tim Clark, Jose Maria Olazabal
8:55 a.m. • Kevin Na, Carl Pettersson
9:05 a.m. • Keegan Bradley, Brian Gay
9:25 a.m. • Henrik Stenson, Vijay Singh
9:35 a.m. • Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn
9:45 a.m. • Richard Sterne, Zach Johnson
9:55 a.m. • Freddie Jacobson, Sandy Lyle
10:05 p.m. • Ernie Els, Bo Van Pelt
10:15 p.m. • Scott Piercy, Rickie Fowler
10:25 p.m. • David Toms, Michael Thompson
10:35 p.m. • Ryan Moore, Luke Donald
10:45 p.m. • Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas
10:55 p.m. • Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson
11:15 a.m. • John Senden, Trevor Immelman
11:25 a.m. • Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel
11:35 a.m. • Bernhard Langer, Sergio Garcia
11:45 a.m. • Tiger Woods, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
11:55 a.m. • Justin Rose, K.J. Choi
12:05 p.m. • David Lynn, Lee Westwood
12:15 p.m. • Adam Scott, Jason Dufner
12:25 p.m. • Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker
12:35 p.m. • Marc Leishman, Angel Cabrera
12:45 p.m. • Jason Day, Fred Couples