AUGUSTA, Ga. — A fast trigger on a rarely called slow-play rule nearly knocked 14-year-old amateur sensation Tianlang Guan out of his first Masters on Friday.
Guan had just played his second shot on the par-4 17th when John Paramor, a European Tour rules official working this year’s tournament, approached him in the fairway and told Guan he had incurred a one-stroke penalty for slow play.
According to a news release from Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, Guan began being timed on the par-3 12th hole and received his first warning after hitting his second shot on the par-5 13th.
Guan was then penalized on 17 “when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin,” Ridley said in a statement.
Instead of a 4, Guan had to sign for a 5. Instead of carding a 2-over 74, Guan had to sign for a 75 that put him at 4-over 148 for the tournament and squarely on the cut line.
It wasn’t until leader Jason Day finished in one Friday’s final group at 6-under that Guan knew he had made it. By rule, anyone within 10 strokes of the lead makes the cut.
Also at 148 were former LSU golfer and 2011 NCAA champion John Peterson and reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson.
“I respect the decision they make,” Guan said before learning he made it through to the weekend. “I think (Friday) it is pretty hard because, if you’re timed only 40 seconds, it’s pretty hard because you need to make the decision. The wind switched a lot. But that’s for everybody.”
Former LSU golfer David Toms said it took 5½ hours for his group to complete its round. One of his playing partners, Ted Potter Jr., was also warned for slow play but not penalized.
Toms said Guan, the youngest Masters participant ever, learned a valuable lesson.
“Better to discover it now as a 14-year-old than when you’re leading the U.S. Open at 24,” he said.
Guan spent a month in New Orleans last summer after trying to qualify for the U.S. Open at Lakewood Country Club.
Morning rain gave way to gusty winds and green-baking sun Friday that made for difficult scoring conditions.
Thursday in cloudy and damp conditions, 33 players broke par, and the scoring average was 73.054. On Friday, 25 players broke par, and the scoring average spiked to 74.161.
The best rounds Friday were the 68 by Day and the 69s carded by Nick Watney, Scott Piercy, 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera and 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans winner Jason Dufner.
Peterson’s playing partner, 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle, is also through to the weekend for the first time since 2009 thanks in large part to his exceptionally large putter he calls a Black Swan.
“It hasn’t turned into an ugly duckling yet, has it?” Lyle said with a smile after shooting 1-over 145.
A mallet-style putter on steroids, Lyle’s flat stick is larger even than today’s big-head drivers, about 8 inches wide across the face.
“It stands up on its own,” he said. “It could be anything — a frying pan, whatever.”
Whatever it looks like, it’s working. Lyle needed just 29 putts Thursday and 30 more Friday.
Eye on Augusta
CBS takes over from ESPN with the weekend telecast of the Masters. Broadcast times are 2 p.m. CDT Saturday and 1 p.m. CDT Sunday.
This is the 58th straight year that the Masters will be on CBS, the longest continuous deal in TV sports history. Online coverage begins at 10 a.m. CDT at Masters.com.