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."