By John Strege
News unfolds at a languid pace in golf, but a languid pace was the news in the second round of the Masters, introducing a note of controversy that provided a seamless segue from the end of the Golf Channel's "Live from the Masters" show to the beginning of ESPN's telecast.
Tianlang Guan, the Chinese teenager who earned widespread admiration for his poise and ability a day before, again was the center of attention on Friday when on the 17th hole he was assessed a slow-play penalty that jeopardized his making the cut. He made it on the number.
Near the end of its show, Golf Channel's Steve Sands interviwed Ken Schofield, the former executive director of the European PGA Tour, regarding the penalty called moments earlier by European Tour rules official John Paramor.
"John Paramor was my first recruit in 1976," Schofield said. "I didn't regret it then and I would not have regretted it in all of my time. John will have applied the penalty in accordance of the competitions of the 77th Masters tournament. Clearly this is very, very unfortunate, but it's a fact of life. Whether the guy is 14 or whether he would have been 60-year-old Tom Watson, John would have applied the rule."
ESPN's Mike Tirico, meanwhile, paid homage to Guan. "The 14-year-old handled it with class, saying afterwards, quote, I respect the decision [end quote], his maturity the equal of his ability, adding to the global admiration for an eighth-grader half a world from home."
Otherwise, opinion was largely the domain of those on Twitter, most coming down on the side of Guan, some curiously so. For instance, Joe Ogilvie, whose Twitter avatar bemoans slow play (a cap with a red circle, the words SLOW PLAY inside them, and a red line through it), wrote: "I'm stupefied by the slow penalty. Hope he still makes the cut."
Ogilvie is among golf's faster players, incidentally, is ardently anti-slow play, and seemingly would be expected to applaud the penalty.
Then there was tennis star Andy Roddick, who wrote, "I understand everyone saying he was warned etc....... My stance is simple to all of those arguments. He's 14."
What does his age have to do with the rules?
Speaking of age...
Given seven hours to fill on its "Live from the Masters" show, Golf Channel featured a couple of interesting interviews, one with Raymond Floyd, once a mentor to Fred Couples. Even at 53, Couples believes he can contend in the Masters, and, indeed, he finished Friday tied for second.
"He has a very good chance to win here because he has maintained his length," Floyd said. "That is paramount. Experience is huge. Huge. The more you play here the better you get a feel for the golf course. I see where Freddie's coming from. I agree with him totally. He has a chance to win here where he might not at any other tour event."
The big question, however, was posed by ESPN's Curtis Strange: "Can his nerves hold up?"
Speaking of slow play....
When the ESPN telecast began, the first we saw of Tiger Woods was on the tee at the par-3 fourth hole, where there was a backup. Rickie Fowler and Jason Day, playing in the threesome following Woods' group, were standing near the tee box and visible in the background.
'The most sin...'
That was all of the sentence that David Feherty got out when Jim Furyk chunked his third shot into the water at the 15th hole.
He was about to say, he said moments later, "the most sinister 75 yards in golf."
Tiger Woods might concur, his third from a similar distance striking the flagstick and bounding back into the water, a stroke of misfortune that would demoralize lesser players. Instead, he took a drop, hit it to within four feet and made the putt for a bogey.
"And that right there is why he is who he is," Arron Oberholser posted on Twitter. "#15th club strongest mind in the game."
David Duval: "The only way to deal with slow play is simple. Give the rules officials the ability to time players without warning them."
(Getty Images photo)
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