Guan makes cut, and golfing history

MAN OF THE MOMENT::The 14-year-old schoolboy prodigy became the youngest player to make the cut in a major, while Australian Jason Day took the lead

AFP, AUGUSTA, Georgia

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - Page 20

Chinese schoolboy Guan Tianlang rocked the golfing world on Friday by making the cut at the 77th Masters, despite being penalized one shot for slow play in the second round.

However, he needed to endure an agonizing wait of several hours until the final grouping came in to be sure that he had survived.

The 14-year-old from Guangzhou, who is the youngest player in Masters history, was sanctioned as he played the 17th hole. That meant he came in with a three-over-par 75 and stood at four-over 148 after 36 holes.

Making the cut were the top 50 and level, plus all players within 10 strokes, and with the halfway lead later established at six-under 138, Guan was safely through, right on the limit, to play at the weekend.

He was to be the youngest to play yesterday and today at the Masters, and he is the first player from China to make the cut in the year’s first major.

Guan is also certain to win the Silver Cup, which goes to the top amateur who completes 72 holes, as his five amateur rivals all failed to make the cut.

On Friday, he dropped two shots at the fourth and seventh, while heavy rain fell on Augusta National, to reach the turn in 38.

With the weather brightening, he then calmly picked his way around the fearful Amen Corner — holes 11, 12 and 13 — without dropping a stroke.

He was parring his way in from there when referee John Paramor walked onto the course after Guan had played his second shot and informed him of the penalty sanction, having warned him already on the 13th hole.

“I played pretty good today,” Guan said after his round, but before he knew he had made the cut. “I know the rules pretty good. This is what they can do.”

Guan became the first player punished for slow play in a major since Frenchman Gregory Bourdy at the 2010 PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, the round on Friday, that tested how top golfers handle adversity, saw Tiger Woods stumble and Jason Day take the lead.

Day, hoping to be Australia’s first Masters champion, shot a four-under-par 68 to stand on six-under 138 and take a one-stroke lead over countryman Marc Leishman and Fred Couples, trying at 53 to become the oldest major winner.

The top-ranked Woods took a share of the lead late, before a demoralizing setback at the par-five 15th when his ball hit the flagstick and went into a water hazard. He shot a 71 to stand on 141, among 26 sub-par players within five of the lead.

A day after 45 players fired par or better, wind and tougher pin positions over the 7,435 yard layout kept the world’s top golfers struggling simply to hold their positions.

Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, birdied five of the last six holes to fire a 69 and stand two off the pace at 140, alongside the US’ Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.

Woods was in a group at 141 that included Australian Adam Scott, the US’ Jason Dufner, South Korean K.J. Choi and Englishmen Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and David Lynn. Only Woods among them has ever won a major.

A pack on 142 included 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, 1985 and 1993 Masters champion Bernhard Langer of Germany, Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Aussie John Senden and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open and last year’s PGA Championship winner, whose round of 70 included an eagle at eight.

Among those who missed the cut were South Korean Yang Yong-eun, the US’ Webb Simpson, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington — all past major winners.