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Time is of the essence for 14-year-old golfer at Masters

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 8:53 p.m.
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Guan Tianlang drives during the third round of the Masters on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Guan Tianlang had plenty of adult supervision at the Masters.

Rules officials kept a close eye on the 14-year-old Saturday, a day after a penalty for slow play nearly kept him from playing the weekend.

The youngest player to make the cut at the Masters said he was never put on the clock, but he was told at least twice on the back nine at Augusta National to pick up his pace.

“I didn't think he played slow. I think he played pretty quick, actually,” said Thorbjorn Olesen, Guan's playing partner. “He's 14, and there's a big crowd following him, so it's pretty difficult for him. I think he's handled it really, really good.”

The Chinese eighth-grader was penalized for slow play on the 17th hole Friday. The one-stroke penalty left him at 4-over for the tournament, and he had to wait until the very last group finished to learn that he could stick around for the last two rounds. He wound up making the cut on the number after Jason Day missed birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes.

“Probably 6:30 I went back home and watched TV and relaxed,” he said.

Asked if he was nervous, Guan said, “A little. I am pretty excited after the round is finished and I get to play with all the top players on the weekend.”

Guan is at 9-over for the tournament after shooting a 5-over 77 on Saturday.

While slow play is a frequent complaint among golfers, particularly at major events, it's rarely enforced. But rules officials are tailing Guan around Augusta National like overprotective parents.

Conditions at Augusta National are notoriously tricky, and it often takes golfers years before they're familiar with the course's quirks. Guan has relied heavily on the advice of his caddie, Brian Tam, who is a regular caddie at Augusta National. And sometimes Guan is overly cautious.

On the 14th hole, for example, he tossed grass in the air twice to test the wind, grabbed a club and took a few practice swings before changing his mind. He grabbed another club and took a two more practice swings before hitting his shot.

Yet Guan and Olesen finished their round in about 4 hours — just about right. They weren't close to the group in front of them, but there also was a sizeable gap between them and the group behind them.

Guan and Olesen had already teed off on 17 before the next group, Peter Hanson and John Huh, reached the 15th green.

“The weather is good today and we played in twosomes,” Guan said. “So we played fast.”

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