GULLANE, Scotland – For the second time in three majors a player has been penalized a stroke for slow play and for the second time in three majors that move has drawn criticism.
Hideki Matsuyama was warned for being out of position and put on the clock on the 15th hole Saturday at Muirfield. Two holes later he was assessed a stroke penalty when officials say he took more than two minutes to hit his second shot.
Matsuyama made a par-5 at the 17th but was forced to sign for a bogey-6 and finished with a 72 and was tied for 12th at 3 over when he completed his round.
“I understand, I'm a fast player. I don't like slow play, either. But given his position in the tournament, and given the shot he faced on 17, laying it up out of the fescue over gorse and pot bunkers, I don't think he took too long,” said Johnson Wagner, who was paired with Matsuyama on Saturday. “He executed a really good shot and under the situation, I think it's tragic, and I think the R&A should use better judgment in the penalizing of it.”
Chinese teen Guan Tianlang was penalized a stroke for slow play in April at the Masters, a move that drew the ire of many who pointed out rounds at major championships regularly take nearly five hours.
“We’ve been plagued by slow play for years, and it turns out it was a 14-year-old (Guan) that was the problem,” Paul Goydos said last month. “We should be embarrassed by that. I find that appalling that they did that. He was penalized for not knowing how to beat the system, not for slow play.”
David Rickman, the R&A’s director of rules and equipment standards, said the official who timed Matsuyama gave the Japanese player extra time before starting his stopwatch at the 17th hole to clear the crowd and that he was confident the official handled the timing correctly.
“What we found is, in recent years, is that if you can put a group on the clock and deal with it straightaway it may be that they are timed for one hole, but it then means that they are back in position. It stops it becoming a bigger problem later on,” Rickman said. “That's what we want to achieve. We want to get players back into position quickly.”