When Guan Tianlang walked off the 18th green at the end of a 3-over-par second round of 75 – and one hole removed from being controversially given a one-stroke penalty for slow play – he stood at +4 for the tournament, fractionally above the PROJECTED CUT line. But while his score was fixed, that line was not.
His first round of 73 stunned the sporting world, perhaps more so internationally than back home in China, where golf remains a niche sport. But making the cut would emulate Thursday’s achievements, even though it is now in the hands of the gods – and, as he found out to his cost, those of the officials.
There are two ways for him to make the cut: be tied for 50th or better at the end of the day’s play, or be within ten shots of the leader. When he finished he was sitting tied for 62nd place, meaning 12 more people would need to drop to 4-over-par or worse: unlikely. But he was also within ten shots of the lead, just.
Then good fortune struck. The leader Dustin Johnson, favored to pick up a shot at the par-5 15th hole, actually dropped two shots and fell back to -4, meaning those within ten shots of the lead now included players on +6.
At the moment [currently 2.30pm ET], things are looking very good indeed for Guan. For him to miss the cut, someone needs to reach -7. Dustin Johnson and Fred Couples (both -4) are running out of holes. The most likely candidate is one from the trio of Jim Furyk, overnight leader Marc Leishman and Rickie Fowler (all also -4). Leishman has already dropped two shots for the day, Furyk has picked one up, Fowler has just started. Tiger Woods or Justin Rose could get hot and shoot a 67, but so far today no one has bettered 69.
Guan can only wait and pray, while his fans in China will only discover when they wake up if he’ll be playing two more rounds. But the wind just picked up at Augusta, so perhaps the gods are smiling on China’s young hopeful after all.