Masters Rules: Good for Tiger, Bad for This 14-Year-Old Kid From China

Sara Morrison

Controversy has erupted at one of the most prestigious tournaments in professional golf. Tiger Woods, in the midst of his glorious comeback, has been accused of cheating and receiving special treatment by Masters officials after he was given a two-stroke penalty instead of disqualified for an illegal ball drop. Meanwhile, a 14-year-old kid from China -- the youngest player in Masters history -- was given a one-stroke penalty for "slow play."

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On Friday, Guan Tianlang switched clubs before taking his second shot on the 17th hole. According to the rules, he had forty seconds to take the shot. He used fifty. PENALTY! Sorry, kid. Tianlang is now not only the youngest player in the tournament's history -- he's also the first to be assessed that slow play penalty, which was almost enough to put him below the cut for the tournament's third round.

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Many felt that Tianlang was unfairly singled out by Masters officials:

Plus, pace of play is a horrific problem on tour and has been for years. But you're going to take your stand now? At a major? And against a teenage amateur from China?

And if you were going to penalize him Friday, then you should have done it Thursday. Crenshaw's caddie, Carl Jackson, told reporters that Guan's play was actually slower that day. But guess what? Guan said he received no warnings on Thursday.

Meanwhile, on the 15th hole, there was this:

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In summary: the ball fell into the water hazard. Woods decided not to play the ball from the "drop area" -- the designated spot around the hazard -- because it was wet and gross. Instead, he re-took the shot.

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Here's the problem: he was supposed to drop the ball as close as possible to the spot from which he'd just hit it. As he admitted in a press conference following the round, he chose to drop the ball two yards behind the spot ... possibly to avoid what happened to his previous ball, which he shot just a smidge too far, causing it to hit the pin and bounce back into the water. He should've taken a two-stroke penalty for that. He didn't.

Golf Digest predicted that Woods would be disqualified from the tournament following a meeting with Masters officials this morning, but instead he was given the two-stroke penalty he should have taken in the first place.

Many feel this is not enough, and that Woods should voluntarily drop out of the tournament

BBC Sport journalists were furious, noting the apparent difference in how Tianlang and Woods were treated:

Nice straightforward Saturday at Augusta. Not. Are the rules the rules whether you're 14 or 14-time major champion? Masters chiefs deciding.

— Rob Hodgetts (@RobHodgetts) April 13, 2013

The rules of golf are clear. Tiger took an incorrect drop so there's only one outcome. Guan Tianlang will have to be disqualified.

— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) April 13, 2013

This may seem like no big deal, especially in the context of other sports where players consistently (and sometimes proudly) flout the rules, but in golf, those rules are sacred. Golfers have been disqualified -- and disqualified themselves -- for much less.