Associated Press , Published April 12 2013
Guan, 14, receives 1-stroke penalty for slow play at Masters
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. He finished at 3-over 75 for the round, giving him a 4-over 148 total. The penalty was believed to be the first for slow play at the Masters.
“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 tricky 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.
Guan said he understood the warning, and tried to pick up his pace.
“A little bit,” he said. “But I think my routine is good. The only problem is I have to make the decision.”
Guan had a long delay on the par-3 16th. After a gust of wind dunked Manassero's tee shot in the water, he spent more than five minutes debating clubs with Tam.
“When the caddie pulls the club for him, I think he's ready. But he just sometimes — most of the times — he takes a little too long. He just asks questions that I think he knows, just to be sure, just to be clear in his mind,” Manassero said.
“If I would have took more time on 16, I probably would have saved two shots, as well,” Manassero added.
John Paramor, the chief referee for the European Tour, said he warned Guan as the group walked to the 17th tee that he needed to speed it up. But Guan had another long delay before his second shot on the hole, and Paramor pulled him aside as the teenager approached the green. Paramor informed Guan he was being assessed a one-stroke penalty, and they had an animated discussion for almost five minutes.
“You give him the news, the best you can,” Paramor said.
Guan's father, Han Wen, was following his son, and a friend approached Paramor for the explanation. It was then relayed to Han Wen, who refused to question it.
“A rule is a rule,” he said. “It's OK.”
But the penalty rattled Guan, who missed an easy birdie putt on 17. He pulled himself together on 18, nearly holing out from a greenside bunker. His father yelled, “Yes!” when the ball hit the back of the cup and bounced a few inches past the hole, leaving an easy par putt.
“No problem,” Han Wen said. “No problem.”
He waited for his son behind the 18th green, and repeatedly patted Guan's shoulder as they walked together to the scoring building.
“I was a little bit (emotional) on the 17th green and I didn't make that par putt,” Guan said. “But on the 18th, I think I did a pretty good job, saved the par. So I still have a chance.”
Masters officials met Guan and his playing partners outside the building and had a brief discussion with them before the players entered the building. Crenshaw and Manassero eventually emerged, but it would be more than an hour before Guan came outside, flanked by his parents. He was composed as he spoke with the media, and said he didn't try to talk officials into rescinding the penalty.
“I just want to know why they're going to do that, and they told me,” Guan said. “I just learned a lot from them, and they told me how to keep it faster or whatever.”
But the ruling could be the difference between Guan playing the weekend or going home. The top 50 players make the cut, as well as those within 10 strokes of the lead.
Fred Couples was the clubhouse leading the tournament at 5 under — nine strokes ahead of Guan. Tiger Woods also was at 5 under at the turn.
“It's still a great week for me,” Guan said. “I've enjoyed it so far, and I learned a lot.”
The last player to be penalized for slow play at a major was Gregory Bourdy in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
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