AUGUSTA, GA - Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old phenom from China who had become the biggest story at the Masters after his 73 on Thursday, was a few minutes away from completing another solid round.
He had hit a good shot up the hill onto the 17th green, about 15 feet left of the hole for a birdie that would have put him in good position to qualify for the weekend.
As Guan approached the green, however, he was stopped by John Paramor, a rules official from the European Tour. An animated conversation ensued, with Paramor using several hand gestures to make his point. By the time Guan arrived at the green to mark his ball, he learned he had been assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play.
As a result, Guan finished at 4 over par for 36 holes and was in danger of missing the cut most of the afternoon, hovering just outside the line. But with tough scoring conditions and some bad luck befalling the leaders on the closing holes, Guan made the weekend by virtue of the 10-shot rule.
"This isn't going to end up pretty, I don't think," playing partner and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw said. "I'm sick. I'm sick for him. He's 14 years old, we're playing - when you get the wind blowing out here, believe me, you're going to change your mind a lot. I'm sorry, I'm a player. But it is not easy to get around this golf course the way it's set up for two days.
"I'm so sorry this happened."
Guan, a deliberate player anyway, told ESPN his routine was slowed by the wind, which howled through Augusta National on Friday afternoon and caused him to switch clubs on the 17th hole, which followed a warning just one hole before.
"I respect the decision," Guan told ESPN. "If I can make (the cut) I would be really happy for it, but if I didn't make it, it's still a great week."
Guan masterfully chipped and putted his way through the tough conditions Friday, finishing his round with 11 consecutive pars (except for the one-stroke penalty) - including a near hole-out birdie from the front bunker on No. 18.
And slow-play penalties are not at all commonplace, especially in major championships. There have been only three, the last one handed out in a major was at the 2010 PGA Championship. The Masters has no record of handing out a slow-play penatly.
So on the surface, it would seem odd that Paramor chose that moment - on the 17th green, with a 14-year old - to draw a line in the sand.
Paramor, however, defended the decision, saying Guan received a warning on the 10th green and was advised on the 12th tee that he would be clocked before every shot. Guan was given a bad time on his second shot on 13, Paramor said, and warned again walking to the 17th tee.
Asked if he had to make the call, Paramor said: "I feel that every time I go out. That's my job. That's what I do."
According to an official statement from Competition Committee chairman Fred Riley, Guan was penalized when he exceeded the 40-second limit on the 17th hole "by a considerable margin."
Asked if Guan should have gotten a little bit of a break because he's a 14-year old, Paramor responded: "No, it's the Masters."
Guan qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur, becoming the youngest player to ever compete in the event. Other players seemed to have sympathy for him.
"I watched him on TV (Thursday), he didn't look to be noticeably slow," Lee Westwood said. "And he's a youngster just learning the game and it's his first professional tournament, it seems a little bit harsh to me, yeah. He probably learned to play slowly after watching us professional golfers on TV, so why should we be surprised?"