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Even with 1-stroke penalty, 14-year-old makes cut

Saturday - 4/13/2013, 10:52am  ET

Amateur Guan Tianlang, of China, discusses his shot with caddie Brian Tam on the first fairway during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 12, 2013, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Guan Tianlang will surely remember his first trip to the Masters.

Everyone else, too.

Already in the history books as the youngest ever to play the Masters, the 14-year-old added to his legend Friday. Hours after being the first player penalized for slow play at the Masters, he became the youngest to make the cut at Augusta National.

"I made it," Guan said afterward on Weibo, China's version 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."

The eighth-grader is one of the most endearing stories at this year's Masters. He's too young to drive, and his mom still makes him snacks to take on the course. He arrived at Augusta National lugging six textbooks -- English, math and history are his favorite subjects at his public school in Guangzhou, China -- and has been juggling study sessions with his rounds.

The kid has game, though, and he was on track to make the cut when he headed for the 17th tee. But he was assessed a one-shot penalty after his second shot at the 17th hole, turning what would have been a par into a bogey.

He finished at 3-over 75 for the round, giving him a 4-over 148 total. With the top 50 players making the cut, as well as those within 10 strokes of the lead, Guan had to wait until the very last group finished to know whether he was in or out.

Jason Day went to 6 under with two holes left, but he missed a birdie putt by inches on 17, and was in the sand off the tee on 18.

"Obviously, it's an amazing achievement to get to the weekend at Augusta. And being able to play and experience what he's going to experience on the weekend, you can't buy that stuff," Day said. "I talked to him earlier and he seems like a really, really good kid. It's unfortunate that he received the penalty, but he can learn from that and move on and hopefully can play well over the next two days."

Slow play is a frequent complaint among golfers, particularly at major events, but it's rarely enforced. The last player to be penalized at a major was Gregory Bourdy in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and you have to go all the way back to 1995 -- before Guan was born -- for the last player to be penalized in a regular PGA Tour event.

"That's unfortunate," Brandt Snedeker said. "I wish they would have made an example out of somebody else except for a 14-year-old kid, you know? Make an example out of me or somebody else. But a kid just trying to make a cut in his first week of the Masters? I understand that slow play is a problem and it's just a tough situation. I feel bad for the kid."

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

Though Guan had played about a dozen practice rounds before the tournament, it often takes golfers years to figure out the best way to play Augusta National and Guan repeatedly sought the advice of his caddie, Brian Tam, a regular caddie at the course. The teenager tossed blades of grass into the air before many of his shots to test the wind. He was often indecisive about his clubs, pulling one, taking a few practice swings and then asking for another one.

"I just changed my routine before the Masters and the routine is good, but 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."

Guan and his playing partners, Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, never held up the group behind them. But Fred Ridley, the competition committee chairman at Augusta National, said they were first warned for being out of position at No. 10.

The Masters follows the Rules of Golf, written by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient. Rule 6-7 requires golfers to keep up "with any pace of play guidelines that the committee may establish." For a threesome at Augusta National, those guidelines set a target of 4 hours, 38 minutes to play 18 holes. Once a group is warned it is "out of position" -- too far behind the group just ahead -- each player is timed and allotted 40 seconds to play the shot.

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