SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon, and I wait all week to say: It's time for sports.
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SIMON: The serene and pristine fairways of Augusta have been trampled up and down for a couple of full days now. The Masters tournament is halfway through. NPR's Tom Goldman has been there watching, not playing. Thanks for being with us, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: But trampling, Scott - I've done my fair share.
SIMON: OK, good. Well, speaking of trampling, I think somebody's trampled on Tiger Woods. Otherwise, pretty good tournament so far because today, he's been penalized two strokes for - well, explain to us what happened. He hit the flag at 15 yesterday and then, of course, under the rules, he has to drop his ball. Take it over from there, please.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, what a jolt this was this morning. We actually were hearing first that he was going to be disqualified from the tournament. Can you imagine that? Yeah, he hit the flag on 15. The ball skittered back into the water, and then he dropped his ball. He apparently chose the rule. He had three options where to drop his next ball, and he chose the option where he has to drop it as close to the spot where he hit his original shot. Now, even Tiger himself admitted that he dropped it about 2 yards behind that original spot; and then hit a fantastic shot that he then sank a putt for a bogey.
The rules committee had the discretion because of a new ruling, to take into account the fact that Tiger may not have known the rule and the fact that this was an infraction reported after the fact, and so they, in fact, decided to penalize him two strokes, as you said, instead of the disqualification. So that means he starts Saturday's third round at one under, five strokes off the lead, rather than three under.
SIMON: I'm afraid maybe a lot of us don't understand what's wrong about dropping the ball two yards behind where you hit it initially?
GOLDMAN: Because the rule says the option that he took says you have drop it as near to the spot where you originally hit it. And he could have gotten two yards closer to where he hit it.
SIMON: We are midway through the tournament. I want to ask you about the contrast, 'cause you've got a couple of older golfers - Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer are playing very well indeed. And at the same time, you have the 14-year-old phenom, Guan Tianlang, from China, the youngest player ever to qualify for the Masters, is also playing well.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, the complete other end of the spectrum. He - not only the youngest to tee off from the Masters, but yesterday became the youngest ever to make the cut. So he qualified for weekend play. Youngest to make the cut, not only in Masters, but any major championship. It's really quite a story. He's got quite a game for actually anyone, let alone a 14-year-old eighth grader. And he's, you know, a very composed young man. In all his interviews, he speaks fairly good English, and he seems to be enjoying the heck out of himself.
SIMON: Fourteen years old? When you've played the Masters, what do you get a 14-year-old for his 15th birthday?
GOLDMAN: Probably a green jacket.
GOLDMAN: He says he probably won't win it this year, but he says in the future, yes, probably. So my goodness, what a story.
SIMON: I want to ask you about Kobe Bryant's injury. Got injured last night, looks like he tore his Achilles tendon. It's a painful injury. Just to watch the replays today, and I follow Kobe Bryant on Facebook, and it's painful to read about it. This is a hurting guy today. What's the significance of this injury to one of the greatest players of all time to his team at this point in the season?
GOLDMAN: Well, it's devastating for his team. I mean, you know, if the Lakers can hang on and get the eighth spot in the Western Conference into the playoffs, there's absolutely no hope. Kobe had guaranteed a playoff spot, and if Kobe had been healthy, you know. All he knew, and a lot of NBA watchers knew, all they have to do is get into the playoffs and if that guy's still playing, there's a shot. So, you know, it's devastating for the Lakers. He's done for the year.
Obviously, for Kobe, I mean, a huge blow. He's 34, he's played 17 years, and he has been playing so much and so hard. He had played every minute of the game up until his injury, with a little over three minutes left in the game against Golden State last night. And he's just been giving it his all, and he had almost gotten them to the mountaintop and then this happens.
Kobe, as I said, 34. It's an injury that has ended careers of guys who've gotten it when they've been in 30s like he has. But Kobe, ever the competitor, was saying last night, you know, it's already bugging me, the stories that I can hear you guys writing that this will force him to retire and he'll never be back. So, Kobe, don't be surprised if we see Kobe Bryant again, but it's going to be a long rehab for him.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman speaking with us from Augusta, Ga. Thanks so much, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.