2004 Masters: Augusta officials defend decision allowing Lian-Wei Zhang to play

Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson defended Masters officials’ controversial decision to invite Lian-Wei Zhang from China, whose only victory on the world stage came at the 2003 Caltex Singapore Masters.

“We felt that it was good for the game of golf to extend a hand to the most populous nation in the world,” said Johnson. “He is a good golfer and we thought it was entirely appropriate.”

Zhang proved his mettle, shooting 77-72 and missing the cut by only one shot. He had two birdies (Nos. 12 and 15) and an eagle (No. 13) during his back-nine 33 in Round 2.

“It was my dream to play here, and now it’s my job to conquer the course in the future,” Zhang said through an interpreter.

He said he wasn’t aware of the cut line during the homeward nine. “I was disappointed that I couldn’t make up the difference from yesterday,” he said.

Zhang had the services of Kevin Sutherland’s regular caddie, John Wood.

They overcame the language barrier by having Wood point to spots on the yardage book diagrams where he wanted Zhang to land his shots. After Round 1, Zhang had his interpreter tell Wood that some of his suggestions had been too aggressive.

“The toughest part was having only two days to learn how far he hit each club,” said Wood.

Zhang has accepted a sponsor exemption into the FedEx St. Jude Classic and an invitation from Jack Nicklaus to play in The Memorial Tournament.

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