AUGUSTA, Ga. — Despite the majority of groups taking nearly 5½ hours to complete their second round at the 77th Masters, there was only one slow-play penalty handed out Friday.
It made plenty of news and ignited a firestorm of reaction, because the penalty was assessed to Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old amateur from China who became the youngest player in Masters history, then surprised many by opening with an impressive 73. Guan was given the one-stroke penalty on the 17th hole by John Paramor, a rules official from the European Tour.
The penalty turned Guan’s score on No. 17 from a par into a bogey, and he ended the second round with a 75. He finished at 4-over-par 148, and barely made the cut, his weekend spot guaranteed only when leader Jason Day failed to birdie either of his final two holes.
According to a statement issued by the tournament office and attributed to Fred Ridley, the chairman of the competition committees, Guan’s group (he was playing with Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero) was informed on the 10th hole that it was out of position. They began to be timed on No. 12, and Guan received a warning for a bad time (a player is supposed to play each shot within 40 seconds) after his second shot at the 13th hole. He then was informed of the penalty by Paramor after hitting his second shot on No. 17, “when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin,” the statement said.
“I respect the decision,” Guan said. “It’s pretty hard because . . . the wind switched a lot. But that’s for everybody.”
Asked if he agreed with the penalty, Guan said, “Yes.”
The decision to penalize the teenager immediately became controversial. Pace of play has been a hot-button issue for years on the PGA Tour, but the last time a player was penalized in a tour event was 1995. The last time a player was penalized in a major was 2004 at the PGA Championship which, like the Masters, is not a tour-run tournament.
That a player was finally hit with a penalty again — and that it happened to the young amateur from China who had captured so much attention for his play here the first two days — produced a variety of responses, even among Guan’s playing partners.
“This isn’t going to end up pretty, I don’t think,” said Crenshaw. “I’m sick. 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.
“We’re playing threesomes. So everybody is taking their time. It’s difficult. I am so sorry. I’m so sorry this has happened. It’s not going to be pretty.”
Said Manassero: “Well, he’s been timed and he was off time, so he was slow, yeah. We all feel sorry, but this is the way professional golf is.
“This will end up being a great experience for him.”
Not today, Sergio
Head down, dragging the club along the 15th fairway behind him after his ball trickled back into the pond guarding the green, Sergio Garcia’s body language told his entire story. Thursday was definitely his day. Friday? Not so much.
Garcia, the first-round co-leader after a 66, limped home 10 shots higher in the second round. He seemed confounded by the wind, but chose to look ahead, not behind. At 2 under, he’s tied for 14th, four shots behind Day.
“When it’s this gusty you have to get lucky because you have to guess if it’s going to gust or not,” Garcia said. “Those things you can’t really control. But even though with everything that happened today, we still are in decent position to hopefully do something on the weekend.”
Weekend is set
Due to the increased cut number announced this week (low 50 and ties, or anyone within 10 shots of the lead), 61 players will play the weekend. It will include Rory McIlroy (70), Phil Mickelson (76), and defending champion Bubba Watson (73), who made it on the number. Among those not moving on: Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson, Padraig Harrington, and every amateur not named Tianlang Guan . . . Keegan Bradley overcame a double bogey on No. 1 to shoot his second straight 73 and make the cut with a few shots to spare . . . Crenshaw took six shots to get down from roughly 40 feet. Bunkered on the par-3 fourth, he needed three swipes to get out, then three-putted on his way to an 84. The two-time Masters champion shot 84 and finished tied for last with Hiroyuki Fujita at 20 over . . . How difficult has No. 4 been? In addition to frustrating Crenshaw, it’s yielded only six birdies in two days, and was the toughest hole on Friday, at 3.409.Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.