Column: Green jackets deal Chinese teen a low blow

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Think they would have done this to Tiger Woods? Not a chance, even though his group took the better part of six hours to get around 18 holes Friday.

“I’m sick for him,” Crenshaw said. “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 two days.”

This was supposed to be a feel good story, and for the better part of two days it was. The Chinese flag joined those from other countries flapping in the wind over the large Masters scoreboard just off the first fairway, and there was excited talk about what the youngster with the brilliant touch around the greens could do for the game of golf in his home country.

That all changed, though, thanks to a rule so convoluted that none of the math or history school books Guan brought with him could come close to explaining it. If you’re terribly interested, it’s Rule 6-7 plus some Masters guidelines, which say, among other things, that shots should take no longer than 40 seconds each and threesomes should complete play in 4 hours and 39 minutes.

European Tour rules official John Paramor, on loan to Augusta National for the tournament, said he had no choice but to enforce the penalty even if it had never been enforced before and the alleged offender was so young.

“It’s the Masters,” he said. “It’s the Masters competition.”

Forgive Paramor for probably hanging around the officious green jackets too much this week and feeling a bit self-important himself. On second thought, don’t forgive him at all.

“He’s a youngster just learning the game and it’s his first professional tournament. It seems a little bit harsh to me,” Lee Westwood said. “He probably learned to play slowly after watching us professional golfers on TV, so why should we be surprised?”

Also not surprising was the way the green jackets dealt with it all. They scurried in and out of the clubhouse for the better part of 90 minutes, trying to figure out what to do with the burgeoning crisis before sending Guan out to meet the media.

Give the kid credit for acting beyond his years. He may have been reciting the party line fed to him by Masters officials, but he managed to do it in his second language and he stuck to the script.

“They should do it,” he said, “because it’s fair to everybody.”

It wasn’t that, of course. Not even close.

But that’s a lesson to be learned another time.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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