HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Held April 11-14, 2013, the Masters was one of the most talked about in history for several different reasons: Adam Scott took home the Green Jacket to Australia for the first time in history; Tiger Woods was nearly disqualified after an improper drop in the second round; and Tianlang Guan made the cut as the youngest player to ever qualify for the Masters.
That is not where the Guan conversation ends.
During the second round, Guan and his playing partners were told that they were out of position on the 10th tee and Guan received his first personal warning on No. 13. The official reportedly told Guan four times that he was playing slowly before the penalty was assessed after Guan exceeded the 40-second time limit hitting his second shot on No. 17.
The 14-year-old, China native was given a one stroke penalty on the 17th green during the second round for slow play. Instead of carding a 2-over-par 74, Guan suddenly was 4-over- par for the tournament and sitting right on the cut line. As the rest of the field finished their round, the world watched waiting to see Guan’s fate.
Social media lit up with fans, players, analysts and avid sports fans weighing in on the situation. Many argued that Guan was being targeted as a player that many young people were watching. Others believed that it was right for him to receive a penalty after continued warnings.
Slow play is nothing new to the PGA TOUR. Plagued with a history of slow play, the PGA TOUR has often been criticized for being loose on the pace of play issue that is overwhelming the golf industry. Was the Masters the right this time to lay down the law? It is believed that this is the first slow-play penalty ever issued during the Masters. The last slow-play penalty handed down on the PGA TOUR was against Glenn Day in the third round of the 1995 Honda Classic.
Regardless of whether or not Guan should have been given the penalty, most agree that something needs to be done about slow play. The International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT) has a pace of play policy for tournaments to help junior golfers prepare for the fast play required in college tournaments, and, apparently, the Masters.
How can we speed up play?
All scorecards handed out at IJGT Events include the pace of play hole-by-hole times on the cards. Juniors can easily monitor their own pace by looking at their time or also by looking for the group in front of them. Many golfers believe that they are in position if they cannot see the group behind them. Your position on the golf course has nothing to do with the group behind you, but only the group ahead.
Be sure to start checking yardage books and using range finders while other players are hitting. Be respectful, but be ready to hit by the time it is your turn. Playing ‘ready golf’ cuts out a lot of unnecessary time on the course.
Place your bag nearer to the next tee box when you are on the green. As seen in Guan’s situation, every second counts. Placing your bag between the green and the next tee box will help get you to the next hole faster and out of the way of the group behind you.
The IJGT has implemented the walk ahead policy to assist with pace of play. When playing in a group of three, the first player to hole out should gather their things and walk to the next hole and get ready to tee off. The second player to hole out will grab the flagstick while the third finishes the hole. As simple as it may seem, this method is extremely effective and can cut off over 25 minutes on a round.
Guan played exceptionally at the Masters. Even with the pace of play stroke penalty he was able to make the cut and play all four rounds at Augusta. Though the situation was one for the history books, it is one that junior golfers around the world will remember as they continue to hear more about pace of play in the future.