So, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I would suggest two answers to one of the largest sub-plots thus far at Augusta National. You know, the one where the poor 14-year-old kid from China got docked a stroke on a day when rounds took almost six hours to play.
Here's theory number one. Augusta National always likes to be a leader in the golf world, a mover and shaker. Chairman Billy Payne likes to remind everyone that it's just a simple Georgia golf club yet it likes to lead by example. So perhaps it decided that slow play was one of the big issues it could tackle. It could set an example for others to follow.
With that as a mandate, it sent its preachers – aka rules officials – out on to the course to do what it could to speed things up and to find one sacrificial lamb to offer up to the gods of speedy golf.
Poor Guan Tianlang.
Here's theory number two. John Paramor is the head rules official for the European Tour and a guy who has been around since 1976. Known as Big John, he has a history of being a stickler for the rules. He's not afraid to enforce the letter of the law. On the European and Challenge tours, there have been 22 one-stroke penalties handed out since 1997. On the PGA and Web.com tours, there have been none.
Perhaps he took matters into his own hands, not that it wouldn't be within his bailiwick. A lone ranger on a mission.
There is also the small matter of the facts in this case. Quan Tianlang was slow. His group was a hole and a half behind at points on the back nine.
Ben Crenshaw, playing in the same group, said at times that Quan played slowly. But he also defended the kid, saying it was a difficult day to play quickly, with swirling winds and tough pin placements. The 14-year-old was most certainly not the only golfer on the course who took longer than 40 seconds to hit a shot.
“I wish they would have made an example of someone other than a 14-year-old kid,” said Brandt Snedeker. “They could have given a penalty to any one of us out there today.”
Whatever the reason for handing out the penalty, it seems unfair and targeted.
The first time in the 77-year history of the Masters officials decide to give a penalty and it goes to a 14-year-old kid? A kid, by the way, who politely responded to the infraction saying he respected the decision.
The bottom line is this stinks, any way you try to understand it.