Guan Tianlang and the rest of the Zurich Classic field had a bit of inducement to keep things moving and not dawdle over their shots during Thursday’s first round of play. A few gators -- including a three-legged one loping along the fairways -- seemed keen to get in on the action at TPC Louisiana and the determination with which they took up prime viewing spots among the gallery was one way to get players to pick up the pace.
“This is all about the slow-play rule,” Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo quipped as cameras captured the denizens of the water hazards creeping up the banks toward a player in a bunker and an official in a cart. “This is to get the guys to play a little bit faster -- just put an alligator behind them.”
No alligator was harmed in the making of the video, and Guan, to our knowledge, was not actually the target of what would be an imaginative solution to pace-of-play problems that plague the PGA Tour. The 14-year-old, who incurred a slow-play penalty at the Masters -- a punishment that Jack Nicklaus dismissed by noting that “hundreds of guys are much slower...and...get away with it” -- carded an even-par 72 that Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner said took a little more than five hours to finish.
The youngest golfer ever to start and make the cut at the Masters, Guan was quick off the tee and to the green, and even sprinted back to the tee after a restroom break midway through the first nine, according to Lavner.
“He’s not fast, but it was not an issue at all,” Henrik Norlander, one of Guan’s playing partners, told Lavner following Thursday’s opening round. “We couldn’t go anywhere. We waited most of the day.”
Lavner noted that Guan afforded himself one practice swing and some four looks before hitting a full shot. After two practice putts, he addressed the ball, took a couple looks at the cup, and played.
“I’m sure he learned something at the Masters to speed up a little bit,” Norlander said. “But it’s tough for him too, because he’s hitting first into every green.”