The 2013 #Masters: Pace Penalty on Tianlang Guan

Posted on April 13, 2013 | in 2013 Masters, Golf, Sports | by
tianlang guan masters augusta national china

A pace penalty against Asian amateur Tianlang Guan in the Second Round of The Masters. (Photo from

Masters Week is finally here! All of the golf world has descended upon Augusta, Georgia for April 8-14 for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Today we take a look at young golfer Tianlang Guan.

As indicated earlier, Masters threesomes are spaced eleven minutes apart for tee times so that there is even spacing and balance between groups and they won’t interfere with each other if play goes as expected.

However, 14 year old Asian amateur Tianlang Guan was penalized one stroke yesterday because he was the cause of his threesome being so far off the eleven-minute pace and severely delaying play for groups behind theirs. Because of his penalty, he ran the risk of missing the cut and playing the final two rounds of The Masters. (Fortunately he made the cut despite the penalty.)

Many are arguing that the penalty is ridiculous because it is rarely enforced for other slow players and Guan might have been unfairly penalized because he’s a now-high profile player for being the youngest ever to play The Masters.

While that might be the case, the fact remains that the rule is in place for a reason – to maintain the pace. Previous enforcement (or lack thereof) should have either complete bearing over future enforcements, or no bearing at all.

Here’s why: there are two ways to look at rules. The first is that the rules are important and they are in place because of very specific reasons…in which case they must be enforced strictly. The fault for not enforcing it falls on the entire game of golf, because important rules should be enforced.

The second way is that we must know the reason the rule exists in the first place. If the rule isn’t important, throw it out. If someone feels a rule is important and can vouch for why, great. Otherwise, there needs to be a reason a rule stays in place and why it must be enforced.

(I love Seth Godin’s take on employee handbooks and rules.)

The “Well they got away with it, why can’t I?” reasoning for action is not a justification nor does it grant permission, but it does hint at a systematic and cultural problem that has been permitted to exist.

My stance is that he was penalized for not following a rule that is important. If golf, the PGA, and The Masters all want to change the culture of slow play, they need to start somewhere. It’s not like it’s a new rule or anything.

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