TIC, TOC: Rules officials kept a close eye on Guan Tianlang, a day after a penalty for slow play nearly kept the 14-year-old from playing this weekend.
The youngest player to make the cut at the Masters said he was never put on the clock Saturday. But the eighth-grader from China was told at least twice on the back nine at Augusta National to pick up his pace.
Guan's player partner, Thorbjorn Oleson, says he doesn't think the teen was lollygagging. He said Guan was handling the attention from fans and rules officials alike "really, really good."
Guan 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 two more rounds. (AP)
SCHOOL CRAZE: Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang extended his record run at the Masters into the third round, followed by larger galleries and a 'Guan Army' of young admirers at Augusta National on Saturday.
The 14-year-old Guan, the youngest competitor ever in the Masters, made the cut despite being handed a stroke penalty for slow play on Friday.
The weekend brought more school-aged children to the golf course keen to watch the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, and chant his name after good shots.
"I'm really happy and I really appreciate that they're watching me here," said Guan, an eighth grader back home.
The slender teenager saved his best for last, using his belly putter to sink a spectacular 60-foot putt for par on the 18th that drew a huge roar from the crowd.
"It's a really long putt and good to make it," said Guan, whose 36-hole score was better than 32 players in the field for the year's first major who missed the cut.
Guan said he was thinking about trying to qualify for the upcoming U.S. Open.
"I tried last year, but just kind of had fun," he said.
Regardless of what he shoots in Sunday's final round, Guan will be going to Butler Cabin along with the new Masters champion to receive the silver cup that is awarded to the tournament's low amateur.
"It's my honor to be there and I'm really happy," said Guan. (Reuters)
AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE!: The Aussies have had enough of their oh-fer at Augusta National.
Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day are in the top five heading into Sunday's final round at the Masters, giving the Australians perhaps their best chance at ending their excruciating drought at the club. The Masters remains the only major an Australian has never won.
"It's hard to say exactly what it means. I'd rather not sit here and wonder so much, I'd rather do that if I win" Sunday, said Scott, a stroke behind leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera. "But, look, Aussies are proud sporting people, and we'd love to put another notch in our belt, just like any great sporting country.
"This is one thing that one of us would like to do tomorrow, for sure."
It's not as if the Australians haven't had their chances.
Scott and Day were in the hunt two years ago, finishing second to Charl Schwartzel. And who can forget Greg Norman's heartbreaks? Jack Nicklaus shot a 30 on the back nine in 1986 to take the green jacket from him. The next year, Larry Mize chipped in from 140 feet during a playoff.
And no one will ever forget 1996. The Shark had a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo, only to gag it all away with a final-round 78.
"It's a great opportunity for all of us to be the first," Day said. "There's been some great Aussies in the past that have had an opportunity to win the Masters and fell short a little bit. So if it happens tomorrow, that's great.
"If it doesn't, then we're going to keep plugging away." (AP)
CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES SINK: Rory McIlroy tumbled down the leaderboard after dropping five shots in five holes Saturday at the Masters.
He put two balls in the water on the back nine, and was in such a slump he needed pars on his last two holes just to break 80 in the third round.
At 5-over for the tournament, he trails the leaders by double digits.
The No. 2 player in the world called it a "very frustrating day," and says his chances to win at Augusta were "gone" after the five-shot swing. He dropped three more shots when he went in the water on 15 and made bogey on the par-3 16.
The 79 was McIlroy's second-worst score in 17 rounds at Augusta National. The only time he's shot worse was in 2011, when he blew the tournament lead on the back nine on Sunday. (AP)
BAD MOVES: Phil Mickelson made a big move at the Masters.
In the wrong direction.
He made back-to-back double bogeys on 11 and 12 on Saturday on his way to a 5-over 77. He's now 8 over for the tournament, no threat to add a fourth green jacket to his collection.
"I just played terrible. There's no way around it," Mickelson said. "I'm just not hitting very good golf shots, missing it in bad spots and not really knowing which side I'm going to miss it on. So my play has been beyond terrible, and that's certainly disappointing."
At least Mickelson didn't back up as far as his Ryder Cup buddy, Keegan Bradley. The 2011 PGA Champion posted the worst score of the day Saturday, a 10-over 82, and is in last place heading into the final round.
Mickelson took last week off, a rarity for him before the Masters, and he was nervous about being rusty when he took on Augusta National. With good reason, apparently.
Except for a stretch early on the back nine Thursday, he's been struggling. With a 76 on Friday, he's shot back-to-back rounds over par for the first time since 2007.
"I don't know what's going on, but I've been struggling with my ball-striking," Mickelson said. "The putter actually feels good even though I missed a bunch. The ball-striking, I just don't know where it's going to go."
While his scores may not reflect it, Mickelson is still having a blast. His wife Amy and their three kids are here this week, and Mickelson got to see them after his second double-bogey Saturday. Rather than wallowing in his poor round, he was going to have lunch his family.
"Where else would you rather be than Augusta National with this kind of weather on a weekend? It's just spectacular," he said. "Certainly I wish I played better, but it sure is fun being here." (AP)
WOODS-GATE: CBS devoted the first 12 minutes of the broadcast Saturday to the Tiger Woods rules controversy.
"A day of high drama at Augusta National Golf Club before a single shot was struck." was how lead announcer Jim Nantz described the scene, calling what Woods did the day before on the 15th hole as an "innocent" and "absent-minded" mistake.
Augusta National said it was Nantz who alerted Masters officials Friday that Woods' post-rounds comments were causing some doubts, leading to another review.
Once CBS got through the initial wave of Woods coverage, it was largely business-as-usual, with cameras trained on an array of players over roughly the next 35 minutes. Then CBS again revisited the Woods matter, with analyst Nick Faldo — a three-time Masters champion — saying the way Friday's events transpired ultimately saved Woods.
"If this had all happened later at night, if somebody had called in late at night and then had gone back and reviewed everything, then in fact Tiger would be disqualified," Faldo said. "He would have signed for the wrong score. In a way, that helped him. They reviewed the situation, they decided from what they saw there was no infringement, but it was only after Tiger then said, 'Hey, I intentionally came back a couple of yards."'
Faldo said he was surprised Woods did not know the rule, but added that he gave the world's No. 1 player "the benefit of doubt."
Earlier in the day, the Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee said:
"The integrity of this sport is bigger than the desire to see Tiger Woods play golf today," Chamblee said. "I want to see Tiger Woods play golf. I have never seen anybody play golf like him. I want to see him make a run at Jack Nicklaus' majors record. I want to see that. But I don't want to see it this week; I don't want to see it under these circumstances. The right thing to do here, for Tiger and for the game, is for Tiger to disqualify himself."
Faldo agreed with Chamblee and didn't back down during the CBS broadcast.
"There was absolutely no intention to try to drop that as close to the divot, absolutely none at all," Faldo said. "So, in black and white, and that is the greatest thing about our game, our rules are very much black and white. You know, that's a breach of the rules. Simple as that." (AP)
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY: Caution and 'Bubba Golf' do not normally appear in the same sentence but Masters champion Bubba Watson showed his deliberate side on Saturday as golf's rule book took the Augusta National spotlight.
On a day when Tiger Woods was handed a two-stroke penalty for an improper ball drop, Watson, who claimed his green jacket with a daring display of shot-making, admitted there is one thing he will not risk on a golf course: taking a chance with the rules.
"I don't know the rule book," Watson told reporters. "I always call in the rules official.
"I've never been in that situation. I've always called in the rules official just like today on 11 I called in the rules official, even though the ball drop was there.
"I just made sure everything went right."
Twice in his round on Saturday, Watson called for the rules official to come and make a ruling.
"Once the rules official tells you a rule, that's law," said Watson. "So even if he makes a bad ruling, it's still law. So that's what I went with.
"That's why I always call in the rules official to tell me the right rule or his own interpretation of the rule."
It was not an unfamiliar situation for Watson, who found himself being questioned for a reported rules infraction at the 2007 U.S. Open.
"I've had a phone call from the U.S. Open before, so I know what those phone calls feel like," recalled Watson after returning a third round two-under 70. "I got a call at 8 in the morning.
"They said, "Bubba, you said you double hit it on camera." And I said, "No, I did not double hit it.
"I didn't say that. I said I could have double hit it. I said you have to go back and listen to the tape.
"And we watched it and then I went back to sleep, because the ruling was I was right, whoever called in was wrong." (Reuters)
Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report