Friday, December 15, 2017

Teen didn't deserve Masters slow play penalty


Just wondering, but what's the Chinese phrase for "highway robbery"?

And while we're at it, how do you translate "swindled" for the folks back home in Guangzhou?

Somehow, you get the feeling that an otherwise befuddled Tianlang Guan has figured out how to speak these and a great many other colorful phrases after Friday afternoon's raw deal of the day.

He was supposed to be the warm and fuzzy story of the afternoon, this ambitious 14-year-old kid who was holding his own against the Masters. Consider this: Guan can't play on his high school golf team because he isn't in high school yet. And yet he was three strokes over par for the tournament when they dropped the penalty flag on him.

Yep, one minute, the course was abuzz at how well Guan was playing at Augusta National, and the next, it seems, he was taking just too long to do so.

And so the Masters officials checked their stopwatch, and they harrumphed heavily, and they added a stroke to Guan's total.

Yeah, that'll teach him, all right.

Guan got lucky. In the end, he made the cut anyway, an impressive feat. The ruling just made him spend an afternoon with fate tying knots in his insides as he wondered. In the end, Guan was at 4-over 148 after his second-round 75, 10 strokes out of the lead, which gives him a lot more time. Two days' worth, in fact.

Before you begin to shake the rule book in defense of the slow play rule, know this: They almost never call slow play penalties in a PGA Tour event, and they had never called one at the Masters before.

Everyone grumbles about slow play, but by and large, officials stay out of the players' way. In fact, you have to go back to 1995 — before Guan was even born — when officials popped Glenn "All Day" Day at the Honda Classic. That was the last regular tour event when a slow play penalty was called. (One was called in the 2010 PGA Championship.)

So why break out the timer on Guan as he was finishing the 17th hole, one hole from finishing? Why bust a 14-year-old amateur on a course where everyone seemed to be taking their time in the windy conditions? It seems … arbitrary.

"The way I understand it, he was warned after he walked off the 16th," said playing partner Ben Crenshaw. "And he had obviously the most diabolical putt you could face, and he made a brilliant two-putt. I'm going to say this: Anybody would take time in order to get up and hit that putt.

"This isn't going to end up pretty, I don't think. I'm sick. I'm sick for him. He's 14 years old. When you get the wind blowing out there, believe me, you're going to change your mind. I'm so sorry this happened."

On the other hand, the conditions were just right for it to happen. After all, old Captain Stopwatch, John Paramor, was in charge of the timepiece.

There are two things to know about slow play penalties. One, they are almost never called. Two, when they are, it's largely because of Paramor.

Back in 2009, at the Bridgestone Invitational, Paramor warned Padraig Harrington. Harrington promptly sped up his play into a triple bogey, and his head-to-head with Tiger Woods turned into a runaway win for Woods. Woods himself ripped Paramor over that one.

Then there was the 1983 Italian Open. In that one, Seve Ballesteros was called for slow play … by Paramor. Ballesteros refused to accept the penalty, and he was disqualified.

In last year's Wales Open, Ross Fisher was given a one-shot penalty … by Paramor.

Look, no one is saying Guan didn't take his time. He did. He is 14 years old, in a foreign country, on a magical course, competing with the world's best, on a windy day, in the biggest event of his life. He could have been more decisive. But again, you could have busted a third of the field for slow play.

"I respect their decision," Guan said, although frankly, he still looked a little shell-shocked two hours later. "I don't think I'm too bad. It's just the wind. I still have to change clubs if the wind changes."

Consider the 16th. Playing partner Matteo Manassero hit his drive into the water. So Guan changed clubs then got ready to hit again. And he was over the 40-second time limit, which was important if Guan had been running a fastbreak. Nevertheless, he drew a warning. On the next hole, officials showed him the stopwatch and informed him he was playing on borrowed time.

For Guan, it was a bad way to end a charming story. Guan is 14, Nickelodeon age, and already it is a wonder the way he carries himself. Already Guan has talked about winning the Masters someday and the Grand Slam. He carved out a practice round with Crenshaw, and he met with Jack Nicklaus, a clear path to soak up all the golf he could. And his mother made him snacks. How cute is that?

On the course, Guan had so much poise, so much presence. He beat Larry Mize and Mike Weir and Tom Watson and Craig Stadler and Crenshaw.

In the end, however, he could not beat Paramor and his stopwatch. Pity.

Today, at least, he tries again. Perhaps he can be quick about it.

O’Hair-Stricker team wins QBE Shootout in Naples

O’Hair-Stricker team wins QBE Shootout in Naples

NAPLES — Steve Stricker provided the pep talk and Sean O’Hair delivered the shot to secure victory Sunday in the QBE Shootout. Stricker and O’Hair closed with 8-under 64 for a two-shot victory over Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, effectively clinchi...
Published: 12/10/17
Rory McIlroy to make Valspar Championship debut at Innisbrook next year

Rory McIlroy to make Valspar Championship debut at Innisbrook next year

The Valspar Championship will get a notable boost in star power next year.Four-time major winner and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy will play the PGA Tour event at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor for the first time, the tournament announced Friday after i...
Published: 12/08/17
Rickie Fowler rallies to win, Tiger Woods finishes strong at Hero World Challenge

Rickie Fowler rallies to win, Tiger Woods finishes strong at Hero World Challenge

NASSAU, Bahamas — Rickie Fowler was the first player to offer a scouting report on Tiger Woods ahead of his return to golf, hinting that Woods was hitting it "way by" him in some of their matches in Florida. Fowler’s own game apparently was in pretty...
Published: 12/03/17
Tiger falls behind as Charley Hoffman leads Hero World Challenge

Tiger falls behind as Charley Hoffman leads Hero World Challenge

NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods fell behind early and never recovered. Charley Hoffman pulled away late and made himself hard to beat. Hoffman handled the blustery conditions in the Hero World Challenge on Saturday for 2-under 70, one of only five roun...
Published: 12/02/17

Tiger brings the buzz back by taking lead but falters on back nine

NASSAU, Bahamas — One of the biggest cheers at the Hero World Challenge came from seeing the name Tiger Woods moved to the top of the leaderboard. It just wasn’t there for long. In another impressive showing in his latest comeback from back surgeries...
Published: 12/01/17
Tiger Woods returns from layoff with solid round in Bahamas

Tiger Woods returns from layoff with solid round in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods looked a lot better in his return to golf than he did when he left. Playing for the first time since his fourth back surgery, Woods returned from a 10-month layoff with 3-under 69 on a breezy Thursday that left him three...
Published: 11/30/17
Ariya Jutanugarn rallies past Lexi Thompson to win LPGA’s Tour Championship

Ariya Jutanugarn rallies past Lexi Thompson to win LPGA’s Tour Championship

NAPLES — Lexi Thompson never had a putt so short that was potentially worth so much. She had a one-shot lead when she settled over a 2-foot par putt on the final hole Sunday at the Tour Championship. A victory would be worth $500,000 in prize money ...
Updated one month ago

Rookie Sung Hyun Park continues to roll at LPGA’s Tour Championship

NAPLES — Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies Friday at the Tour Championship. Park kept right on attacking. Th...
Updated one month ago