AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Masters took a stunning turn for its youngest player ever, and it may cost 14-year-old Guan Tianlang a chance to play on the weekend at Augusta National.
The Chinese eighth-grader was penalized one stroke for slow play late in the second round Friday, believed to be the first time such a ruling has been made at the Masters.
The penalty could prevent Guan from making the cut, since he needed to be among the top 50 or at least within 10 strokes of the lead.
After Augusta National announced the decision, the youngster was tied for 54th. Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Marc Leishman were tied for the lead at 5 under — nine strokes ahead of Guan.
Fred Ridley, the club’s competition committee chairman, said Guan’s threesome was first warned for being too far behind the group ahead of them at the 10th hole. The teenager went on the clock two holes later — an official imposes a 40-second time limit to play a stroke — and gave Guan his first warning at No. 13.
“In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his second shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin,” Ridley said in a statement.
That turned what would have been a par into a bogey. Guan finished at 3-over 75 for the round, giving him a 4-over 148 total.
“I respect the decision,” he said. “This is what they can do.”
Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun said there were no records of the penalty ever being assessed during the Masters.
The last player to be penalized for slow play at a major was Gregory Bourdy at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
“I know the rules pretty good,” Guan said. “But I think my routine was pretty good, too. Just the wind changed. The weather, it was not a good day.”
A rainy morning turned into a sunny, blustery afternoon, which sent scores much higher than they were in the opening round. Guan said it took him longer to judge distances and pick clubs because of the wind.
Nevertheless, Guan said his first Masters would still be special even if he missed the cut because of a penalty.
“This is still a wonderful experience for me,” he said. “I enjoyed this week so far. I think I did a pretty good job.”
Leishman, a 29-year-old Australian with only one PGA Tour victory, kept up his solid play in the tough conditions, while others fell down the leaderboard.
They included Sergio Garcia, who was tied with Leishman at the end of the first round after both shot 6-under 66. The Spaniard soared to a 76 that knocked him back, but not out. He was four strokes off the lead.
Dustin Johnson surged to 7 under and the top spot on the board, before a dismal finish ruined his day. He laid up at the par-5 15th hole, then dunked his third shot in the water, leading to a double-bogey. He bogeyed the 17th and took another double-bogey at the final hole to finish with 76.
Instead of leading, he was five shots back at 1-under 143.
Lost in the distraction of Guan’s penalty was Woods’ charge toward the front. After opening with a 70, the four-time Masters champion birdied three holes on the front side, made the turn with a 33 and got to the top of the leaderboard for the first time when Leishman bogeyed the 14th.
Two other former winners were doing well, too.
Fred Couples, playing in his favorite tournament at age 53, birdied the final hole for a 71 that gave him the clubhouse lead at 139. Angel Cabrera birdied five of the last six holes, signed for a 69 and was another shot back at 140.
Jim Furyk got to 5 under before a double-bogey at No. 15 sent him tumbling.
He wasn’t the only one.
“It’s a hard course out there,” Couples said. “I felt very good about what I shot. I had a couple of little hiccups out there and did some other good things to shoot my score. But the golf course is winning today.”
Cabrera actually posted a better score in the tougher conditions than he did Thursday, when he shot 71.
“For me, Augusta is never easy,” the 2009 Masters champion said. “Never, ever easy. The big difference was that on the back nine, I was hitting very well off the tee, leaving my second shots close, and I was able to make some birdies.”
But this day will likely be remembered for the penalty against Guan.
“This isn’t going to end up pretty,” said 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw, who was playing with Guan. “I’m sick for him. He’s 14 years old. When you get the wind blowing out here, believe me, you’re going to change your mind a lot.”
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