China's teenage golf sensation Guan Tianlang incurred the wrath of Masters officials, receiving a rare penalty that almost ended his amazing debut in the year's opening major.
Rules officials imposed a one-stroke penalty on the 14-year-old for playing too slowly during his second round at Augusta National, but he survived to make the cut and seal the award for the best amateur player.
With the addition of the seldomly-used penalty, Guan signed for a three-over-par 75 and a two-round total of four-over 148, jeopardising his chances of playing on the weekend.
But when the second round leader, Australia's Jason Day, came in at six-under, Guan made it by a single shot, ensuring he not only became the youngest ever player to qualify for the final two rounds but also guaranteed him the silver cup as the best amateur at this year's Masters.
"I respect the decision they make," Guan said in a televised interview after his round.
"This still is a wonderful experience. I enjoyed this week so far and think I did a pretty good job."
Guan, who has become the feel-good story of the 77th Masters, said he was aware of the rule and knew that he was playing slowly, but said he had no choice because the gusting winds at Augusta National made club selection difficult.
"I think my routine is pretty good, it was just the wind switching," he said.
Slow play has been a contentious issue in professional golf for years but players are rarely penalised. The last time it happened at a major was in 2010 when Gregory Bourdy was docked a stroke at the PGA Championship, according to the PGA Tour.
"There's no question he played slowly at times but he was working things out," American veteran and twice former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, one of Guan's playing partners, told reporters.
Guan's other playing partner, Italian Matteo Manassero, agreed the young Chinese boy was slow but said he was not bothered by it.
"From my point of view, I didn't get so much affected by it because I was hitting last, so I was taking my time and it didn't feel too slow to me," Manassero said.
"We all feel sorry, but this is the way professional golf goes. This will end up being a great experience for him."
Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, issued a statement saying the group was deemed to be out of position on the 10th hole.
Guan began being timed on the 12th hole and was warned for slow play after his second shot on the 13th. He was then penalised after his second shot on the 17th exceeded the 40-second limit "by a considerable margin."
"This isn't going to end up pretty, I don't think," said Crenshaw. "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.
"I'm sorry, I'm a player. It is not easy to get around this golf course the way it's set up for two days."
Englishman Lee Westwood said Guan would learn a valuable lesson and made light of the fact most professionals play slowly.
"He's a youngster just learning the game and it's his first professional tournament, it seems a little bit harsh to me," Westwood said.
"He probably learned to play slowly after watching us professional golfers on TV, so why should we be surprised?"
Already the youngest player to compete at the Masters, Guan became the youngest player to make the cut at a major.
The previous record was held by Manassero, who was just 16 when he made it to the final two rounds at the 2009 British Open.
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