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The Masters, Round 2: Crouching Tiger, Vigilant Rules Official
By Torleif Sorenson on 4/12/13
When we all went to sleep Thursday night, the stormy weather forecast overnight gave us the impression that Friday might yield a field day for the Masters Tournament field at Augusta National. Instead, the golf course fought back — most shockingly at 15, which CBS's David Feherty described as "a cruel mistress today."

The first stunning development: Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old Masters rookie, was assessed a penalty stroke at 17 for slow play. At first, some viewers thought it rather harsh — even a few conspiracy theorists voiced their thoughts. However, Masters Tournmanemt Competition Committee Chairman (and former USGA president) Fred Ridley, issued the following explanation in a prepared statement:
"Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-shot penalty for violation of Rule 6-7 of the Rules of Golf and the Tournament’s Pace of Play Policy. His group, which included Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, was deemed out of position on No. 10. Guan began being timed on No. 12 and received his first warning on No. 13 after his second shot. In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his 2nd shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin."
Amazingly, he still got in under the cut line, allowing him to play the weekend. If Guan had missed by a shot, this writer suspects that most oobers and viewers would have been up-in-arms. To his credit, Guan accepted the penalty with considerable sportsmanship and maturity.

However, given the disgracefully slow play on Monday of the PGA Tour stop in San Diego, some of us feel that it's about time that stroke penalties be handed out on-the-course for slow play, a cancer that is eating away at the popularity of our game. The last time a slow-play stroke penalty was given at a major championship was in 2004, to Steve Lowery at the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The second shocking moment of the day occurred on the 15th hole, four hours later. Tiger Woods had gotten birdies at 5, 7, and 8 in order to get to -5, hitting 13 consecutive fairways going back to Thursday afternoon. On the 15th tee, Tiger blocked his tee-shot into the trees right of the fairway. Intelligently, Woods decided to lay up short of the water, giving himself a comfortable wedge into the green. But at 6:31 p.m. EDT, Tiger's perfect wedge proved to be just a little too perfect. Stunningly, the ball caroomed squarely off the flagstick and deflected into the water hazard.

"You have GOT to be kidding me!" exclaimed CBS' Vern Lundquist.

"Royally cheated," gasped an amazed David Feherty. "He could barely have played it better!!"

Watching the replay on ESPN, with the blurring background, gave some of us viewers a sickening sort of twinge in our stomachs. Admirably, Woods hit another lovely pitch toward the flag, yielding as impressive a "6" as you're likely to see at 15.

Rickie Fowler burned the edge of the hole at 15 with an attempted birdie, then face-planted at the 16th with a tee-shot into the water and a resulting triple-bogey 6.

Slowly but surely, however, Jason Day crept up the leaderboard with a 68. Tarnished only by bogeys at 4 and 12, Day had six birdies to go to the weekend with a one-shot lead at -6, powered by a birdie at 16 that gave him the solo lead at 6:59 p.m. EDT.

Australian Marc Leishman and 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples hung tough in windy conditions; Couples followed a 69 on Thursday with a 70 today, inching up the leaderboard to -5 going into Saturday. Leishman coughed up two strokes to par, then righted the ship with birdies at 7 and 8 before bogeying the 14th.

Lurking behind him are 53-year-old Fred Couples and first-round co-leader Marc Leishman. Behind them is an impressive trio at -4. 2009 Masters champion Ángel Cabrera rattled off consecutive birds at 14, 15, and 16, then again at the closing hole to get to the weekend with a 69, tied for fourth with Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker. A log-jam of contenders trails at -3, including David Lynn, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, K.J. Choi, and the aforementioned Woods.

Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia followed up their impressive first rounds with awful second rounds; Garcia slipped four to -2, while Johnson, who had surged to a solo lead at -7 at the 13th hole, collapsed with double bogeys at 15 and 18 to limp into the weekend at -1. Garcia strikes this writer as being the kind who can still stay in the hunt, given a good performance on Moving Day. Johnson, however, seems to be having more serious problems.

Given the drama on Friday at Augusta National Golf Club, we can only hope that Saturday and Sunday are at least as exciting.

The weekend weather forecast for Augusta:
Saturday should be gorgeous, with sunny skies and a high near 79° F. Northwest winds should be less than 10 miles per hour.

Sunday could be a problem, with a 30% chance of showers after 3:00 p.m. EDT. Before then, the forecast calls for a high of 78° F with easterly winds of 5 to 7 mph.


Masters Leaderboard


Image via Flickr, pocketwiley


[ comments ]
Reslie says:
I was pulling for Guan in the only way I could - hoping that Day would not make a another birdie on the way in.
4/13/13
 
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