- The Masters
Slow play penalty nearly costs Guan dear
A slow play penalty nearly cost 14-year-old Tianlang Guan the chance to play the weekend of The Masters.
Guan, the youngest player to compete in the event at Augusta National, was bidding to also become the youngest competitor ever to make the cut - but that was in some doubt for number of hours after rules officials punished the Chinese a stroke for slow play on the 17th hole of his second round on Friday.
The decision ensured Guan bogeyed the hole and eventually carded a round of 75, leaving him four-over par for the tournament. In the clubhouse he initially sat in a tie for 62nd, with the top 50 and ties progressing to the weekend.
However, the so-called '10-shot rule' ensures any player within 10 shots of the 36-hole lead will also be invited to play the weekend. So, when leader Jason Day missed his birdie putt at the last to remain six-under par for the tournament, the Chinese finally discovered he had made history.
The last player to be penalised for slow play on the PGA Tour was Glen Day, who was punished during the 1995 Honda Classic - three years before Guan was born.
"It affected me a little bit," Guan told Sky Sports afterwards. "I think the weather is not good today, and the wind blows hard, so you have to make decisions. I just switched the clubs and need to do better. On 18 I did a good job, saved the par.
"I respect the decision they [the officials] make. That's what they do."
Fred Ridley, the tournament committee chairman, said in a statement: "Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-shot penalty for violation of Rule 6-7 of the Rules of Golf and the Tournament's Pace of Play Policy.
"Guan began being timed on No. 12 and received his first warning on No. 13 after his second shot. In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalised following his second shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin."
Slow play was a problem on Friday - as it was for parts of Thursday - with a number of the later starters enduring waits of over ten minutes on certain tees. The penultimate group of the day, featuring Tiger Woods and Luke Donald, had been on the course for over one hour and 20 minutes before even teeing off at the fourth.
Guan was warned by officials about the pace of his play on the 13th hole and then reportedly only narrowly avoided censure for his pre-shot ponderings on the 16th green, prior to being penalised by John Paramor, the European Tour's chief referee.
"Well, the way I understand it, he was warned after he walked off the 16th. And he had obviously the most diabolical putt you could face and he made a brilliant two-putt," playing partner Ben Crenshaw said after the round. "And, you know, I'm going to say this: Anybody would take time in order to get up and hit that putt.
"And this isn't going to end up pretty, I don't think. I'm sick. I'm sick for him. He's 14 years old, we're playing when you get the wind blowing out here, believe me, you're going to change your mind a lot. I'm sorry, I'm a player, but it is not easy to get around this golf course the way it's set up for [these] two days.
"We're playing threesomes. We used to play twosomes on the first two days. So everybody is taking their time. It's difficult. I am so sorry. I'm so sorry this has happened. It's not going to be pretty."
- playing partner Matteo Manassero
The other member of the group, Matteo Manassero, said: "He just sometimes ... takes a little too long, he just asks questions [of his caddie] that I think he knows [the answers to], as well, but just to be sure, just to be clear in his mind.
"And so I think that's an important thing, and John Paramor was saying that, as well. We all feel sorry, but this is the way professional golf goes."
The penalty aside, it was another assured round from the teenager - who had only bogeyed the long par-three fourth and tight par-four seventh before his run-in with Paramor. At the 18th, he made the 15th par of his day to give himself hope of playing into the weekend.
"I simply cannot believe they would punish the weakest player, the easiest target, in the field," former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie said on Sky Sports.
"He was taking forever [to hit his shots]," Butch Harmon, coach to Phil Mickelson, responded. "He was warned, and then he was punished."
By making the cut, Guan became the youngest player to do so in a major in the modern era by almost two years.