By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- On a day when several groups were put on the clock, Hideki Matsuyama was assessed a one-stroke penalty for taking too long over his second shot at the 17th hole.
As a result, the 21-year-old ended up with a bogey at the par 5 and a third-round 72. So Matsuyama, who tied for 10th at the U.S. Open, will start the final round of The Open Championship six strokes off the lead.
Matsuyama's first bad time came on the 15th green when he took 1 minute and 12 seconds over his first putt. His second bad time of 2 minutes and 12 seconds was on his approach from the rough at the 17th hole. The group ahead of Matsuyama and Johnson Wagner, Tom Lehman and Mark O'Meara, was also on the clock, as were several other twosomes during the third round.
David Probyn, European Tour tournament director, assessed the penalty. The chairman on the Japan Golf Association was an observer with the group and he handled the translation.
Wagner said he thought it was "terrible" the three-time winner on the Japan Tour was penalized. He said Matsuyama played a little slower than he did but that overall he felt the twosome kept up with the group ahead throughout the day.
"I don't like slow play, either," Wagner said. "But given his position in the tournament, and given the shot he faced on 17, laying it up out of the fescue over gourse and pot bunkers, I don't think he took too long. I think 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."
In fact, Wagner said he spent five minutes in the scoring trailer making an appeal.
"I feel like I let the official know how I felt about it as gentlemanly as I could, but it infuriated me that he got a penalty," Wagner said. "If they had tried to penalize me, I would have gone ballistic. So I tried to represent Hideki as good as I could, and couldn't get it changed."
According to David Rickman, the R&A's director of rules and equipment standards, Probyn said he gave Matsuyama time to deal with the errant shot, which had traveled into the crowd, as well as walk up and back to assess his shot before the timing began.
"So we feel that we were appropriately liberal with the starting of the timing procedure," Rickman said.
Twosomes are expected to complete 18 holes at Muirfield in three hours and 41 minutes. Rickman said Matsuyama and Wagner were 15 minutes over the time par, "but more crucially in those circumstances, they were four minutes out of position with the group ahead of them."
Wagner, who played with Matsuyama at last year's Masters, said at one point there were four officials walking with their group and "it was extremely frazzling." He said he was in the fescue rough on the right side of the 17th fairway "rushing to play my shots" while Matsuyama was hitting his approach. Once the two met again on the green, Wagner was very sympathetic.
"I just looked at him and gave him (a) this is ridiculous, I'm sorry, look," Wagner said. "And he was like, I know. We don't really speak the same language, but we know what we're talking about. Like I say, I love The R&A and I'm all for fast play, but I think a little better judgment could have been used."
This is the second time an Asian player has been penalized at a major championship this year. Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old from China, received a one-stroke penalty at the Masters but went on to finish as the low amateur.