Saturday, April 13, 2013

14-year-old golfer makes cut and history at Masters despite slow play penalty

Golf prodigy, Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese golfer who is looking like an old pro at this year's Masters, was slapped with a controversial one-stroke penalty for slow play during Friday's second round, hindering his chances of making of making the cut.

The youngest player ever at Augusta National was assessed the penalty after his second shot at the 17th hole, turning what would have been a par into a bogey.  But the young man not even old enough for high school persevered and finished at 3-over 75 for the second round — giving him a 4-over 148 total.  Good enough for making the cut and making history as the youngest to ever do so in a major since 1900.

The penalty was believed to be the first ever for slow play at the Masters as well.

"I respect the decision they make," said Guan, who spent almost 90 minutes after his round talking with rules and tournament officials. "They should do it because it's fair to everybody."

Conditions at Augusta National are notoriously fickle even in perfect weather, and the swirling, gusty winds blowing Friday only made them more difficult. Though Guan had played about a dozen practice rounds before the tournament, it often takes golfers years to figure out the best way to play Augusta National and Guan repeatedly sought the advice of his caddie, Brian Tam, who is a regular caddie at the course.

The teenager tossed blades of grass into the air before many of his shots to test the wind and was often indecisive about his clubs, pulling one, taking a few practice swings and then asking for another one.

"I just changed my routine before the Masters and the routine is good, but I think today is pretty hard," said Guan, the youngest golfer to play any major in 148 years. "You need to make the decision, but the wind switched a lot. But that's for everybody."

The Masters follows the Rules of Golf, written by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient. Rule 6-7 requires golfers to keep up "with any pace of play guidelines that the committee may establish." For a threesome at Augusta National, those guidelines set a target of 4 hours, 38 minutes to play 18 holes. Once a group is warned it is "out of position" — too far behind the group just ahead — each player is timed and allotted 40 seconds to play the shot.

Guan and his playing partners, Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, never held up the group behind them. But Fred Ridley, the competition committee chairman at Augusta National , said they were first warned for being out of position at No. 10.

The eighth grader went on the clock two holes later, and received his first warning at the 13th.

"In keeping with the applicable rules ... he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin," Ridley said in a statement.

Crenshaw was shaking his head about the rare penalty.

"I'm sick. I'm sick for him. He's 14 years old," said the two time Masters champion. "I'm so sorry this happened."

Maybe the kid thought there was no reason to speed things up.  After all, he has a lot more years ahead of him.

1 comment:

  1. It was the day before on the 18th that got me so riled because of the kid taking forever to putt the damn thing. I swear, I could have run to McDonald's and back and still seen the putt drop for a birdie. And the moronic announcers didn't say one thing about it!