A miscarriage of juvenile justice, indeed

MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES Tianlang Guan, a 14-year-old amateur from China, was unfairly penalized for slow play at the Masters.
MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES Tianlang Guan, a 14-year-old amateur from China, was unfairly penalized for slow play at the Masters.
Posted: April 14, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Even Lil Wayne knew this was wrong.

Even a gangsta rapper who spent 8 months in prison realized it was wrong for golf's fussbudgets to pick on a 14-year-old Chinese amateur.

Tianlang Guan, the tiny Asian amateur champion who on Thursday became the youngest player to play in a Masters, was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play on the 17th hole Friday afternoon. Playing among glacially slow millionaires and making history in his sport's brightest spotlight 12,000 miles from his home, tournament officials dinged the kid for slow play.

A rare occurrence in any top-level tournament, this was the first such penalty in the history of the Masters, according to tournament officials.

Lil Wayne's tweet: "Guan shouldn't have the penalty. Shame on the Masters."

Yes. It was that ridiculous.

Guan's group played through benign, overcast conditions early, a downpour in the middle of their round, then in shifting, gusting winds as the round closed. The tournament said that the group was deemed out of position on No. 10, but neither Guan nor partner Ben Crenshaw indicated that officials informed them that they were out of position.

According to a tournament statement, officials began timing Guan on No. 12, then assessed him a personal warning on No. 13. He took forever on the tee at the par-3 16th, after partner Matteo Manassero hit his tee shot into the water. He then dallied over treacherous putt on No. 16, then, trying to decipher swirling winds on No. 17, Guan took a second look at his yardage book, switched clubs . . . and "exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin," according to the statement.

Infamous clock watcher John Paramor, the European Tour's chief referee, bustled up to Guan, showed him The Official Stopwatch and informed him of the penalty.

The penalty gave Guan a bogey on No. 17, his only blemish on the back nine. He finished 3-over for the day and 4-over for the tournament; right on the cut-line bubble.

That meant about 5 hours of trepidation.

The top 50 and ties made the cut, and also anyone within 10 strokes of the leaders. Guan was 55th, so, at 148, he had to hope no one posted a 7-under 137.

Marc Leishman was at 6-under through 13 but gave a stroke back down the stretch. Tiger Woods and Jason Day stood at 5-under through 13, but Woods' luckless, flagstick strike on No. 15 turned birdie into bogey.

Day birdied 16, and, for two holes, had 2 billion Chinese (counting expatriates) rooting against him. His 12-footer for birdie on 17 snuck past, and, foolishly, he used driver on the downwind 18th, dumped his tee shot in the bunker and scrambled to make par.

Guan was saved.

His penalty Friday was the first slow-play penalty at a major since Gregory Bourdy was so assessed at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. That penalty also was assessed by Paramor.

"I don't think I [was] too bad," said Guan, who already has a reputation for dawdling. "Everything here is not easy."

It would have been easy, and wise, to let him slide. If the issue turns Lil Wayne indignant, how shameful must it be? Had Lil done some research, he might have absolved the tournament and targeted Paramor.

In 2009, Paramor put Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington on the clock on the 16th tee of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Harrington, admittedly rattled, led by one at the time, but made a triple-bogey on the hole. Harrington's collapse handed the tournament to Tiger - who, in turn, chastised Paramor.

Friday, it was Gentle Ben's turn to get bearish on Paramor.

"I'm sick. I'm sick for him," said Crenshaw, Guan's playing partner Thursday and Friday. "He's 14 years old. When you get the wind blowing out here, believe you me, you're going to change your mind a lot.

"Everybody is taking their time . . . It's pretty difficult for somebody to [play quickly] in a tournament like this with conditions the way they are."

Guan blamed no one: "I respect the decision." He barely defended himself.

He was in no position to do so.

Mannasero certainly didn't bother. He supported the penalty without mercy . . . and, in the same breath, wished he had switched clubs on 16, too.

Defense of Guan fell to the generous Crenshaw, and to anyone else with a heart; anyone who realizes the perplexities involved in the choice to shame a 14-year-old who is playing a three-climate round with half a continent hanging on every club choice.

It should be noted that, at 3:45 p.m., Woods' group had been on the course for more than 2 hours. It had completed only five holes. That's a 6-hour pace.

Guan was long gone by then.

The time allotted for a round for a threesome in Masters play is 4 hours, 38 minutes.

But no other penalties were assessed Friday.

Yes, Guan had been warned.

Yes, slow play is the bane of modern golf. The most absurd scene in sport is watching someone such as Bubba Watson or Scott Piercy standing next to his bag, chatting with his caddie about club selection, 30 seconds after the last player's turn . . . with no club in his hand.

And don't dismiss Lil Wayne out of hand. He made a cameo in the timeless 2007 golf film, "Who's Your Caddy," alongside Jesper Parnevik.

President Obama is a Lil Wayne fan, wooed, no doubt, by the inspirational 2010 smash, "I Made It:"

I'm in this for the love of the game!

Guan, an amateur, is in it for the love of the game.

Friday, despite a spiteful, silly ruling, he made it.

Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

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