Tiger surges, 14-year-old plays too slow
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP)
While Tiger Woods climbed up the Masters leaderboard, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang hoped a one-stroke penalty for slow play didn't keep him from playing on the weekend.
Woods, the world's No. 1 player, and an eighth-grader from China were the dominant storylines on a day when Augusta National reclaimed its bite.
With scores soaring and several prominent players plummeting, Woods put together a stretch of three birdies in four holes on a blustery Friday to put himself in contention with Fred Couples, Marc Leishman and Jason Day.
Guan wasn't in contention for the lead, but he was hoping no one pulled too far ahead so he could make the cut. The task got tougher when the youngest player in Masters history was penalized for slow play on the 17th hole, apparently the first such ruling in the tournament's 77-year history.
''I respect the decision,'' he said. ''This is what they can do.''
Guan needed to be among the top 50 or at least within 10 strokes of the lead to get two more rounds of golf at Augusta National.
When the decision was announced, the youngster was tied for 54th. Couples, Leishman and Day were tied for the lead at 5 under - nine strokes ahead of Guan.
Fred Ridley, the club's competition committee chairman, said Guan's threesome was first warned for being too far behind the group ahead of them at the 10th hole. The teenager went on the clock two holes later - an official imposes a 40-second time limit to play a stroke - and gave Guan his first warning at No. 13.
''In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his second shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40-second time limit by a considerable margin,'' Ridley said in a statement.
That turned what would have been a par into a bogey. Guan finished at 3-over 75 for the round, giving him a 4-over 148 total.
Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun said there were no records of such penalties at the Masters.
The last player to be penalized for slow play at a major was Gregory Bourdy at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
''I know the rules pretty good,'' Guan said. ''But I think my routine was pretty good, too. Just the wind changed. The weather, it was not a good day.''
Woods arrived as the overwhelming favorite to win his fifth green jacket, and he's certainly eager to end the longest drought of his professional career. His last major championships was the 2008 U.S. Open.
Since then, his marriage ended in scandal, he dealt with numerous injuries, and he struggled to adjust to another swing change.
But his game - perhaps his life, too - have clearly taken a turn for the better.
With his new girlfriend, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, cheering from beyond the ropes, Woods opened the tournament with a 70 and kept up his strong play in tougher conditions Friday. He birdied the fifth, seventh and eighth holes to make the turn at 33. A brilliant par save out of the back bunker at the 12th was followed by a tough break at the 15th, when his third shot struck the flagstick and rolled back into the water. But he pulled off a shot from the drop area and salvaged a bogey, leaving him just one shot behind Day and clubhouse leaders Couples and Leishman, both at 5-under 139.
A rainy morning turned into a sunny, blustery afternoon, which sent scores much higher than they were in the opening round. Guan said it took him longer to judge distances and pick clubs because of the wind.
Nevertheless, Guan said his first Masters would still be special even if he missed the cut because of the penalty.
''This is still a wonderful experience for me,'' he said. ''I enjoyed this week so far. I think I did a pretty good job.''
Leishman, a 29-year-old Australian with only one PGA Tour victory, kept up his solid play in the tough conditions, while others skidded down the board.
They included Sergio Garcia, who was tied with Leishman at the end of the first round after both shot 6-under 66. The Spaniard soared to a 76 that knocked him back, but not out. He was four strokes off the lead.
Dustin Johnson surged to 7 under and the top spot on the board, before a dismal finish ruined his day. He laid up at the par-5 15th hole, then dunked his third shot in the water, leading to a double-bogey. He bogeyed the 17th and took another double-bogey at the final hole to finish with 76.
Instead of leading, he was five shots back at 1-under 143.
Some former champions fared better.
Couples, playing in his favorite tournament at age 53, birdied the final hole for a 71. Angel Cabrera birdied five of the last six holes, signed for a 69 and was another shot back at 140.
''It's a hard course out there,'' Couples said. ''I felt very good about what I shot. I had a couple of little hiccups out there and did some other good things to shoot my score. But the golf course is winning today.''
Cabrera actually posted a better score in the tougher conditions than he did Thursday, when he shot 71. He was joined at 4 under by Jim Furyk (71) and Brandt Snedeker (70).
''For me, Augusta is never easy,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion. ''Never, ever easy. The big difference was that on the back nine, I was hitting very well off the tee, leaving my second shots close, and I was able to make some birdies.''
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