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« Day 3 Chintz: 18th Green Noticeably Slower | Main | Instant Poll: Who Will Win The 2013 Open Championship »

Matsuyama Hit With Slow Play Penalty; Johnson Wagner Fumes

Bob Harig on the second slow play penalty in a major this year going to Hideki Matsuyama, this time in the third round of the Open Championship as Matsuyama was in the top 10 on the leaderboard.

Matsuyama, 21, who turned pro in April and has won twice this year on the Japan Golf Tour, was put on the clock on the 15th hole along with playing partner Johnson Wagner. According to the R&A, they were 15 minutes over the scheduled time and were out of position in regards to the group ahead. His first bad time (more than a minute) was then recorded on his first putt on the 15th hole, and since the group was still out of position, he had another bad time (2 minutes, 12 seconds) on his second shot to the 17th hole. That resulted in a one-stroke penalty that was added to his score at the 17th, resulting in a bogey-6.

The R&A's David Rickman explained how it went down:

The timing was conducted by a very experienced European Tour official. I talked to him about the circumstances, particularly of the second bad time, which was the second shot to the 17th hole. He explained that he gave Hideki time to deal with -- I think there was a ball into the crowd -- to deal with the spectator. He then walked forward to look at the stroke he had, he then walked back to his ball, and the timing official allowed all of that to happen before the watch was started. So we feel that we were appropriately liberal with the starting of the timing procedure Nick, and then the stroke itself took two minutes 12 to play, which is well over twice the allotted time. So in the circumstances I confirmed to both players that I could see no reason to waive that bad time and, therefore, a penalty stroke was appropriate.

Q. Has there been any other incidents of bad timing that's come close in this tournament? Have you been pretty strict about slow play?

DAVID RICKMAN: This week we've certainly had a number of groups get out of position. We've had our rovers do a considerable amount of timing. There have been single bad times, but obviously as this is the first one-stroke penalty to be applied this week. Hideki Matsuyama is the first player to have received two bad times this week.

An unbylined Sky Sports story on playing partner Johnson Wagner's spirited defense of Matsuyama.

American Wagner was incensed at the way the incident was handled, especially after Matsuyama's drive at the penultimate hole had struck a spectator.

He said he would have gone "ballistic" had he been punished in the same way and had pleaded with officials to reverse the decision.

"I don't like slow play either but given his position in the tournament, and given the shot he faced on 17, I don't think he took too long," he said.

"I think it's tragic and I think the R&A should use better judgment in the penalising of it."

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Reader Comments (29)

Let the name calling and anti-American ranting begin!
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
And here in lies the major issues with slow play...when your playing a course in those conditions with pot luck results you need a little extra time to figure things out especially when it's not normal to be playing a course like that in those NOT normal conditions.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterViz
@DTF, you've ridden that hobbyhorse into the ground over the last few weeks. Might be time to retire it?

Wagner did an interview on the Beeb about the situation, so hopefully there's a link to that floating around somewhere.
GMac had some salient things to say about the 'policing' of his group as well.
Slow play bad, no question. But they both raised some interesting issues.
Ironically, I think being put on the clock helped Stenson a bunch today. Potential headcase at the best of times, being told to make up his freakin' mind worked in his favour.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
Watched this guy play his approach from the middle of the 11th fairway yesterday and he took forever, backed off a load of tims and had his caddy lining him up, how can you be that good and still need your caddy to line you up?
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennydad
Two minutes and 12 seconds AFTER taking care of the spectator?? If there are no consequences, these guys will take forever.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered Commenter@zunolover
If there's a slower player in the tournament than Woods, I've yet to see them. I would 'LOVE' to see Woods put on the clock, just once, for someone to have the balls to stand up to the man.

That said, I'm still pretty irritated at Woods manner on and off the course; anybody else see him throw his score card at Westwood and the recorder in the recorders hut?

Sick of the excuses given to this clown; great player, pig of a person. Strike that, most pigs I come across are quite friendly.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered Commentermehstg
Without seeing their play (and I didn't see many shots from him today), it is hard to say, but you could hear the nervousness in the announcer's voices when it seemed to be a possibility that Tiger or Westwood would be penalized. Can you imagine if one of the contenders had a stroke penalized on the back nine ? Or if Tiger lost due to that ?
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Shame Wagner doesn't get as spirited about his fitness level as he does this.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeeWatson
Use better judgment, I think the official did. He gave them plenty of time to get everything in order befor he started the clock. If he was 5 or 10 seconds late, than a maybe on not penalizing him, but a full minuet over, no choice.

Would love to see a last group be put on the clock, they need to play by the same rules as the first groups.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Wagner showed in his interview that he was completely clueless about the slow play rules but then he plays on a tour that thinks slow play is not a problem.Tiger and Westwood were on the clock from the 11th to the 15th when they were back in position.Tiger then went into reverse gear again but to say that Tiger is never on the clock is just plain untrue- but he knows how to play the system!
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
Mark, regarding the last group, I think Jimenez and Stenson were put on the clock today.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeagle
At this point in the game, all slow play penalties are good. whether deserved or not.
Azinger said he played in the final group Saturday and Sunday in 1987 and they were on the clock both days. Good info there chico, puts that "stand up to" Tiger myth to rest. Don't forget the Tiger/Paddy final pairing at Firestone that was put on the clock on the back-9 on Sunday.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
So Chico, are you saying that the European Tour does think slow play is a problem? I'm confused. I liked Wagner's reaction to the penalty and I think he probably knows a bit more than you on what was actually going on out on the course with the spectator being hit. Perhaps it shook Matsuyama up and he needed a moment to compose himself.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterWOODY
Am I being cynical or is it a coincidence that the only two players penalised this year in major championships are both Asian ? Possibly something to do with the fact that a) English is not their native language and ergo they are less likely to be able to strike back verbally and b) their legendary politeness and respect for authority, which is culturally imbued in Chinese and Japanese lads at a young age. Just speculating ...
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJock
Jock, I don't think it's a coincidence at all.
07.20.2013 | Unregistered Commentercardinal
Yeah the Asian angle is curious. Is it a way to set an example for the future, the growth of the game coming from that part of the world. A 10 year old Asian golfer , it could really influence his behavior on the course to see this happen, .... Nah on second thought the UsGa an R A ain't that smart!
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterVwgolfer
@Woody- yes they do! The player was given time to compose himself etc and the stopwatch was only started once it was reasonable to say that it was his turn to play.He then took over 2 mins to hit it- his fault- not the officials . Wagner showed his ignorance by complaining that they weren't holding the game behind up! A game who incidentally were also on the clock. . Unreal that he can't see that his job is to keep up with the game in front and that was why they were being timed in the first place!!
07.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
Jock - believe your analysis is spot on. Racism and discrimination of this manner in any sport - let alone the Royal & Ancient game - is intolerable.
07.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Dart Man
I do not believe the referees are racist.The European tour has penalised several players over the last year or two-including Ross Fisher when he was in the lead on the final day.Last time I looked Ross Fisher was not Asian.The Euro tour holds regular pace of play clinics on the Challenge tour to educate the new young players- some coming out of the amateur ranks are unbelievably slow- sadly Scottish players are pretty poor!I can't see why anyone has any sympathy for these two players who had been on the clock for several holes and warned they had had a bad time,were then asked if they understood the slow play rules and the consequence of a further bad time,yet still took over 2 minutes to hit the ball with a ref with a stop watch right behind them!!One of the reasons players ignore the slow play rules is that they don't believe they will be implemented- they should believe that in Europe they will.Whenever we argue on here about the state of the game then the time it takes to play is seen as public enemy number 1 - so why vilify the refs for implementing the rule?One of the reasons the likes of Tiger and Langer never get penalised is that they know how to play the system- but rest assured that if Tiger was over time and out of position and took over 2 minutes to play a shot then John Paramour and Andy McPhee would not flinch from warnings and penalties.
07.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
Glad to hear quite a few groups were put on the clock during the third round. They all got away with it except for surprise, surprise a Japanese. In Japan, a game of golf is an all day affair with luncheon served between 9s. G-Mac is a great guy but he is an inveterate, practice-swinging, slow coach. He, for one, fully-deserves being put on the clock every now and again. The referees were doing their job - at last. Perhaps all the clocking contributed to that 'almost acceptable' 4:05 it took the final 2-ball to complete 18-holes on a compact, if severe, golf course? Otherwise - it might have taken 4:55.
07.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
@Jock and DartMan-

Accusing both the USGA and R&A of "racism and discrimination" based on two examples is frankly ridiculous. It is certainly possible that your armchair analysis is accurate but I think it is more likely just inflammatory and unsubstantiated excuses and justifications. I would submit another over-extrapolative and less apologetic interpretation of the limited data set: that young Asian players (male and female), and these two in particular, play very slow. I think Occam's Razor would generally favor my theory.

That said, kudos to Johnson Wagner for stepping up and publicly defending Matsuyama. He could have kept his mouth shut but he had an opinion and voiced it, even if I generally disagree with his position.
07.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterwatson82
Yeah, and John Paramor did such a great job at previous tournaments too, like the 2009 Bridgestone Invitational, where Woods apologized to Harrington for Paramor's having "got in the way of such a great battle" down the stretch and distorting the outcome. And that zinger of his at the Masters on young Yuan, that was a real peach too. Seems this guy just happens to be right at the centre of each and every controversy about this rule.

My problem with the clock rule is that the time a player has to hit after being put on the clock is unrealistically and unfairly short. In the one tournament I'm aware of where all players were actually timed, the 2009 Bay Hill, the average time for a player to hit a shot on 18 was 107 seconds. So 40 seconds is not even close. I can see the rule being fair if the result of being put on the clock is you have to hit within 90 seconds, but 40 seconds is a penalty in itself and unduly distorts the game. If a group is out of position, it's usually due to a number of factors, and almost never the fault of a single player. To subject both players, or all three players, to a 40 (or 60 in limited circumstances) second time puts all the players in the group at a distinct disadvantage relative to the other competitors, regardless of fault. That's not fair. I would submit the fairest thing to do in that situation, where the delay results from a confluence of factors certainly not within every player's control, is to require the group to hit their shots within at least an average length of time for the field or slightly faster. That way they do not fall further behind and will in fact gain on the groups ahead of them without placing them at such an unfair disadvantage from the get-go, where the cost of not incurring a stroke penalty is complete destruction of any normal rhythm for all concerned.

I would be more inclined to accept the argument that there was no discrimination if Paramor wasn't the rules official involved in both instances at majors this year. The fact he was unfortunately raises the question.
07.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHammerwielder
@hammerwielder- I wasn't young to bother to reply but you are so far wide of the marl I thought I would.Firstly- the slow play rules are endorsed by the players committee-ie the players themselves.Most pros hit in about 25 to 30 seconds.Ive been timing for about 25 years so I have a fair amount of evidence to that effect.40 seconds is actually quite a long time to hit a ball.Extenuating circumstances are taken into account and the clock does not start until the ref thinks the player is free to play.Dont blame the Euro Tour refs for having the bottle to actually do their job- shame not everybody does- and Dont imagine they enjoy giving the the penalty- they would far rather not have to
07.23.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
This thread is unbelievable. The governing bodies regularly get slated for not confronting slow play issues and yet when they do, they still get a hammered. As for accusations of racism in respect of the asian players, perhaps the invisible whiners on here should consider this that ... perhaps, just perhaps ... they are slower!
What a pile of crap from some posters here. Matsuyama was given time before the clock started an distill took 132 seconds to play his shot. Similarly Guan at the Masters made no attempt to speed up when put on the clock. They have in common penalties applied by a European rules official, as did the white, English Ross Fisher when he was assessed a penalty stroke for slow play when in contention in a European Tour event. It seems Hammerwielder and other posters are like Tim Finchem, they'll talk about slow play but object to actually doing anything about it.
07.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPsycho
Nice one Psycho- my sentiments exactly.
07.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
All I am saying is two things: that the time permitted players in a group once put on the clock should be adequate and not punitive in itself; and that the rule should be applied uniformly.

As to the first point, I cited evidence from Peter Kostis's study of time taken when all pros were put on the clock at the 2011 Bay Hill. Some notable facts: Of the 1,497 shots timed at Bay Hill, 279 of them - or fully 18.4 percent - exceeded the Tour's 45-second limit. A higher percentage would have exceeded the 40-second limit under the clock rule. And many of the pros in the Bay Hill had percentages well in excess of the 18 percent average. Moreover, the average time per putt was 37 seconds -- a stat that itself suggests that the 40-second rule provides insufficent margin. As for the time most pros take to make shots once it's their turn, Tiger Woods by way of legitimate example took an average time of 38 seconds for tee shots and 39 seconds for putts. And that doesn't take into account the fact that the two shots the pros took the most time over were those that could lead to a birdie: the approach and the first putt. Pros took additional time to commit to their strategy and stroke on those important scoring opportunities, although the study unfortunately did not break out the averages taken on these shots.

So no, the evidence does not establish that 40 seconds is a world of time when the penalty for taking even 41 seconds is so severe.

As to my second point, uniformity of application, the stats from the Bay Hill themselves are telling. Fully one in five shots took more than even the 45-second limit, and I would suggest that the time legitimately required to craft a proper shot in a major is necessarily longer than that required at a non-major. To apply a one-stroke penalty to only one player in the tournament when at least 20 per cent of all shots taken (and no doubt much more than that at the Openl) routinely took longer than 45 seconds is grossly unfair and does nothing to remedy slow play.

As a more effective and fair measure to eliminate slow play, why not give all players a specific amount of time to make a shot and penalize them if they exceed it? At least in such a case the rule would be uniform, and such an approach is routine in other sports -- the time count in football on every play being an example. Much more would be done to speed up play and the results of the tournament would not be unfairly distorted by singling out a particular player when most if not all are equally guilty of taking too much time over particular shots at one time or another during the same tournament. The technology currently exists to track this given the wealth of real-time data from features such as shot-tracker that is made publicly available.
07.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHammerwielder
Hammerwielder - I'm afraid you don't understand the workings of the slow play rule.For example there is always a 10% leeway given- nobody is ever penalised at 41 seconds!The players committee endorsed the rule so they are comfortable with 40 seconds.You are only timed if you are over time and out of position.etc etc- I could go on but I can't be bothered!Play on the US Tour is glacial!!
07.25.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico

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