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Tiger Woods’ Masters ruling ok, Guan Tianlang’s not so much -- Jack Nicklaus

Scott Halleran

Tiger Woods received the correct punishment for his improper ball drop during the second round of the Masters, but the slow-play penalty officials slapped on Guan Tianlang was out of bounds, according to Jack Nicklaus.

“Could they have disqualified him? Probably,” the AP quoted Nicklaus as saying Wednesday about the storm that swirled around Augusta after Woods’ third shot to the par-5 15th slammed the flagstick and caromed into the water and his resulting illegal drop. ''But you've got all the best rules heads together and they said that they thought there was no intent to do anything [improper] and that two strokes was a strong enough penalty. And you move on.''

Nicklaus, speaking during a luncheon honoring the support his Memorial Tournament provides Nationwide Children's Hospital, disagreed with many observers who continue to charge -- as Louis Oosthuizen did on Wednesday -- that Woods should have quit the Masters after tourney bosses failed to disqualify him.

The call in question concerned the incorrect drop Woods took on Friday, an issue that blew up overnight and led to a two-shot penalty rather than a DQ for the world’s No. 1 player.

"People say, 'Should Tiger have withdrawn himself?' I don't think so at all," said the 18-time major champion. "If Tiger did that, he'd be putting himself in a position of saying, 'I'm above the rules.' You accept the ruling whether it's good or bad for you."

Nicklaus was not so charitable toward tourney regulators who assessed Guan with a one-stroke penalty for slow play during the second round.

''He's in the eighth grade! The eighth grade and he's playing in the Masters!'' Nicklaus said. ''And he gets a penalty? Can you imagine giving a 14-year-old kid a penalty for slow play?''

Well, yes, actually, noted a former Masters champ, as well as the 14-year-old prodigy himself.

"I think that -- not just the Masters -- I think there's times on the PGA Tour where [slow-play penalties] should have happened before. I think we should always give strokes [for slow play]," Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters winner who’s competing in New Orleans, told the AP. "It's an unfortunate situation because of who it was. But again, he's not a pro yet, but later in life, if he becomes a pro, he's going to know the consequences."

Guan accepted the discipline with grace and Wednesday conceded he may need to pick up the pace.

“I probably have to make a decision quicker on windy days,” Guan told reporters at TPC Louisiana, where he is also playing this week. “So, yeah, I'll pay attention a little bit to it and probably speed up a little bit.”

As for Oosthuizen, the seventh-ranked player opined that a DQ was the proper penalty for Woods, who followed his errant drop by signing an incorrect scorecard.

“He got the rule wrong in where he could drop it,” Oosthuizen told reporters ahead of this week’s Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea. “I don't think he did it intentionally. He just was mixed up in all what he needed to do at the moment.

“But he got the rule wrong, and you know, after signing your scorecard for the wrong rule, it was definitely a DQ,” said the 2010 British Open winner. “I just think the officials misinterpreted the rule completely.”