Against the backdrop of moving day at the 142nd Open Championship, a rare slow-play penalty was assessed against Hideki Matsuyama of Japan during the third round at Muirfield on Saturday.
A slow-play penalty is rarely assessed in golf and seldom assessed in professional events or major championships. But with a heightened concern about the pace of play, Matsuyama’s is the second slow-play penalty in major championships this year.
In the second round of the 2013 Masters, Tianlang Guan of China had to add a stroke to his score for two bad times, almost causing him to miss the cut but eventually finishing 58th as low amateur.
In Matsuyama’s case, the penalty that was assessed on the 17th hole dropped him from 2 over to 3 over and six shots off the lead of Lee Westwood.
Matsuyama said he did not truly understand officials’ explanation but realized the penalty wouldn’t be overturned.
According to the R&A’s David Rickman, the director of rules and equipment standards, Matsuyama’s group was asked to speed up on the 12th hole because the group of Tom Lehman and Mark O’Meara had just been put on the clock.
On the 15th tee, the Matsuyama group was officially put on the clock by European Tour rules official David Probyn for being out of position. On the 15th green, Matsuyama was given his first bad time and notified by the observer Takayuki Hayashi, the chairman of the Japan Golf Association’s Rules of Golf Committee.
“His first bad time was apparently his first putt on the 15th, which took a minute and five seconds,” Johnson Wagner, his playing competitor, said sympathetically after the round. “It was a 50-footer with break and wind. If you going to be allowed to read it from both sides of the hole, it’s going to take a minute to play that shot.”
Matsuyama received his second bad time when he took 2:12 to hit his second shot out of the long rough on the par-5 17th hole.
“We feel that we were appropriately liberal with the starting of the timing procedure, and then the stroke itself took 2 minutes, 12 (seconds) to play, which is well over twice the allotted time,” Rickman said about the penalty. “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.”
Rickman was called in when Johnson refused to sign Matsuyama’s card, believing the penalty unjust.
“I didn’t want to sign it; I didn’t want to put the score down,” Wagner said after the round. “We were moving at a lovely pace for twosomes on a Saturday.”