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Guan makes the cut and more history at Augusta

By Garrett Johnston in Augusta, Georgia | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-14 08:04

 Guan makes the cut and more history at Augusta

Guan Tianlang watches his second shot on the first fairway during the second round of the Masters on Friday. David J. Phillip / Associated Press

Guan makes the cut and more history at Augusta

Despite a penalty for slow play and a nervous wait, Chinese teen marches on

Chinese golf prodigy Guan Tianlang hopes his "miracle" performance at the US Masters can continue after the 14-year-old became the youngest player to make the cut at the august event at the Augusta National Golf Club on Friday.

He squeaked past the cut mark at the US Masters by a shot after shooting a 3-over 75 par that led to a 4-over total after two rounds. He is the youngest ever to not only play in the event, but to make it to the weekend and will continue his unbelievable charge at the famous course on Saturday.

"I made it," he said afterward to his 25,000 followers on his micro-blog account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. "I hope I can continue to make miracles. Thanks to my parents! Thanks to everyone who has helped me, supported me and cared about me."

It was a feat that survived a potentially devastating hit on Friday when Guan was assessed a one-shot penalty at the 17th hole for slow play as he walked up the fairway. It could not have come at a more crucial time in his quest to make the weekend of the Masters.

According to a statement by the committee, Guan's group, which included Matteo Manassero and Ben Crenshaw, "was deemed out of position on No 10. Guan began being timed on Hole 12 and received his first warning on Hole 13 after his second shot. In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his second shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin".

As Guan stood in the 17th fairway for his second shot, he faced an immensely strong wind. He was preparing to hit a long iron into the difficult and sloped green. He changed clubs to hit his second shot as the wind changed and, in doing so, went over his 40-second time allotment. However, he executed arguably his best iron approach of the day to 10 feet. At that point, as he walked to the green, he was assessed the penalty.

One could only imagine how frustrating that might be for a player fighting so hard to make the cut. However, Guan responded with humility and class.

"I respect the decision they make," Guan said.

His father Guan Hanwen, when told his son received the penalty, said that a rule is a rule and also accepted the news with grace.

Tiger Woods said: "Unfortunately he either didn't pick it up or sometimes you can get guys who are hitting shots or backing off a couple shots and you can get weird times ... it can happen."

The drama of whether or not Guan would make the cut came down to the late groups of the day.

For 4 hours, he had to wait to see if the leader, or leaders, would set a pace that would keep him within 10 strokes. Long-hitting Dustin Johnson had a chance to set the bar high when in the lead, but struggled on his back nine, finishing at 2-under.

Then there was Woods. He was at 5-under and in position, but then hit the pin on 15 and his ball spun into the water. He would finish at 3-under.

As long shadows and dusk began to overtake Augusta National, leader Jason Day was 6-under and had a chip for birdie that would put him at 7-under and cause Guan to miss the cut. Day missed the chip and, in that moment, Guan not only became the youngest ever to survive the cut at the US Masters, but it also assured him that he would be the low amateur of the event. The other four non-professional players missed the cut.

"It's an amazing achievement to get to the weekend at Augusta," leader Day of Australia said. "And being able to play and experience what he's going to experience on the weekend, you can't buy that stuff."

Priceless indeed. Even former mayor of New York and American political icon Rudy Guiliani, who was among the patrons at the Masters, marveled at Guan's talent.

"It's his composure that is what's most impressive about him," Guiliani said. "And the fact that he's 14 is amazing."

Regardless of how he plays on the weekend, Guan will receive the Silver Cup - which goes to the player that finishes with the lowest score among the amateurs - when he completes the tournament on Sunday.

Past Silver Cup winners include Jack Nicklaus, Woods and Phil Mickelson.

After Guan made the cut, fellow Chinese golfers and fans offered their congratulations through China's active social media.

"Your future, the future of Chinese golf, the world's No 1, everything is possible," China's top-ranked professional golfer, Liang Wenchong, wrote in a comment to Guan's post.

Another Chinese golfer, Zhang Lianwei, wrote on his own micro blog that Guan's success "proves the strength of China's young generation of golfers and shows the gap between Chinese golfers and world-class golfers is narrowing".

Meanwhile, on a more somber note, Guan said he had never had issues with slow play before, and he wasn't warned on Thursday. But conditions at Augusta National are notoriously tricky in perfect weather, and the swirling, gusty winds blowing on Friday only made them more difficult.

"I think today is pretty hard," Guan said. "You need to make the decision, but the wind switched a lot. But that's for everybody.

"I think my routine is good. The only problem is I have to make the right decision."

AP contributed to the story.

(China Daily 04/14/2013 page8)

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