It was the rarest of penalties on the rarest of golfers.
Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old prodigy who charmed the Masters galleries on Thursday, was slapped with a controversial 1-stroke penalty during his round on Friday after a Masters scoring official deemed that his pace of play was too slow.
For a few hours, it appeared the penalty could ruin Guan’s chance to become the youngest player ever to make the cut in a major. But Guan, who now sits at 4-over after shooting a 3-over 75 Friday, made history while staying within 10 shots of leader Jason Day.
“This is still a wonderful experience for me,” said Guan, the China native who is the youngest player in the history of the Masters. “I enjoyed this week so far. I think I did a pretty good job.”
The penalty was handed down by official John Paramor after Guan was too slow to hit a fairway shot on the 17th hole.
“Guan began being timed on Hole 12 and received his first warning on Hole 13 after his second shot,” Fred Ridley, the club’s competition committee chairman, said in a statement. “In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his 2nd shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40 second time limit by a considerable margin.”
Guan was gracious about the decision (“I respect the decision they make,” he said.) but it was curious.
It was the first in the history of the Masters, and just the third in 16 years at all four major tournaments. The last penalty came at the 2010 PGA Championship.
“Sometimes you can get guys who are hitting shots or backing off a couple shots and you can get weird times,” Tiger Woods said after hearing about the penalty. “It can happen.”
When Paramor was asked by reporters if he considered being more lenient because of Guan’s age and inexperience, he responded: “No, it’s the Masters.”
After his round, Guan said the gusting winds at Augusta National made for some difficult club decisions and a slower pace.
“I think today is pretty hard,” Guan said. “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.”Day bounces back into the lead
An injury wrecked Jason Day’s chances at last year’s Masters. This year, he’s making up for lost time. Day shot a 4-under-par 68 on Friday, grabbing the second-day lead at 6-under for the tournament.
Day, an Australian who finished second at the 2011 Masters, withdrew from last year’s tournament on the second day with a bum left ankle.
“I wish I could have played through the pain of last year,” Day said, “but it was unfortunate that I had the injury. “But it’s really good to be back here. And obviously being on top of the leader board right now is a great honor to have.”Leishman flies under radar
For the second straight day, Australian Marc Leishman quietly stayed in the hunt at the Masters.
Leishman, 29, shot a 1-over 73 and sits just one shot off the lead at 5-under. He’ll play with former Masters champ Angel Cabrera, who finished at 4-under after making five birdies in his last six holes.
“Obviously, I was looking at all of (the leaderboards),” Leishman said. “But I do that at every tournament. So it’s nothing different.”
Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker both sit at 4-under, two shots off the lead, while Tiger Woods and Adam Scott lead seven players at 3-under.Other notables
Defending champion Bubba Watson scrambled to shoot a 1-over 73 and just made the cut. At 4-over par, he’ll play solo today because an odd number of players made the cut. ... Kansas City native Tom Watson missed the cut after finishing at 13-over after two days. He shot 78 on Friday.