AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - History is one of Guan Tianlang’s favorite subjects in school.
“I made it,” he said afterward on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “I hope I can make more miracles, more dreams come true. I want to thank my parents and everyone who cared, supported and helped me.”
Guan had to wait until the very last group finished to know if he was in or out. He finished at 3-over 75 for the round, giving him a 4-over 148 total. The top 50 players made the cut, as well as those within 10 strokes of the lead. Jason Day was 6 under with two holes left, but he missed a birdie putt by inches on 17, and was in the sand off the tee on 18.
“Obviously, it’s an amazing achievement to get to the weekend at Augusta. And being able to play and experience what he’s going to experience on the weekend, you can’t buy that stuff,” Day said. “I talked to him earlier and he seems like a really, really good kid. It’s unfortunate that he received the penalty, but he can learn from that and move on and hopefully can play well over the next two days.”
For all the talk of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, Guan added a buzz to the Masters. An eighth grader who arrived at Augusta National with textbooks stuffed in his bag, he is the youngest player ever at the Masters and the youngest at any major in 148 years.
He impressed fans and fellow players alike with his steady play and calm demeanor, and making the cut looked like a given when he teed off on 17. But he was assessed a one-shot penalty after his second shot at the 17th hole, turning what would have been a par into a bogey.
Slow play is a frequent complaint among golfers, particularly at major events, but it’s rarely enforced. Guan is believed to be the first player penalized for slow play at the Masters. The last player to be penalized at a major was Gregory Bourdy in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
“A rule is a rule,” Guan’s father, Han Wen, said after his son was penalized. “It’s OK.”
But it sure caused a headache for Masters officials, who were horrified that anything might spoil the coming out party of a youngster who has the potential to be golf’s biggest star since Tiger Woods. Several “green jackets” were waiting for Guan at the scoring building when he finished his round, and he spent almost 90 minutes talking with rules and tournament officials.
“That’s unfortunate,” Brandt Snedeker said. “I wish they would have made an example out of somebody else except for a 14-year-old kid, you know? Make an example out of me or somebody else. But a kid just trying to make a cut in his first week of the Masters? I understand that slow play is a problem and it’s just a tough situation. I feel bad for the kid.”
Guan said he has never had issues with slow play before, and he wasn’t warned Thursday. But conditions at Augusta National are notoriously tricky in perfect weather, and the swirling, gusty wind blowing Friday only made them more difficult.
“I respect the decision they make,” Guan said. “They should do it because it’s fair to everybody.”
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. He was often indecisive about his clubs, pulling one, taking a few practice swings and then asking for another one.