1-shot penalty for Japanese star

GULLANE, Scotland -- Japan's Hideki Matsuyama was hit with a one-stroke penalty for slow play during the third round of the Open Championship on Saturday, the second player this year assessed such a penalty in a major.

Matsuyama's penalty was applied on the 17th hole. He was three shots off the lead at the time and ended the day in a tie for 11th place at 3 over, six shots behind leader Lee Westwood.

The Royal & Ancient said prior to the tournament it would be more strict about enforcing slow-play guidelines and expected two-ball groups to play in 3 hours, 41 minutes.

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.

David Rickman, the R&A's rules director, said the official with the group gave Matsuyama ample time to cope with the difficulty of the shot. He said Matsuyama walked forward to look at the shot he needed to play, and then back to his ball.

"The timing official allowed all of that to happen before the watch was started," Rickman said. "So we feel that we were appropriately liberal with the starting of the timing procedure. ... So in the circumstances I confirmed to both players that I could see no reason to waive that bad time."

Matsuyama finished with a 1-over 72 and is at 3-over 216 for the tournament. He bogeyed four of his last six holes.

"Under the situation, I think it's tragic, and I think the R&A should use better judgment in the penalizing of it," said Wagner, who said he felt "frazzled" after being on the clock. "I love the R&A and I'm all for fast play, but I think a little better judgment could have been used."

At the Masters this year, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang was penalized one shot for slow play in the second round. He still became the youngest player to make the cut in a major.

Matsuyama already has three wins on the Japan Tour -- one of them as an amateur -- and at No. 44 is the highest-ranked player from Japan. He played the first two days with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson and opened with rounds of 71-73. He ran off three straight birdies around the turn as he climbed up the leaderboard, and despite a pair of bogeys, was still within range.

The penalty didn't help.

Wagner said he argued on behalf of Matsuyama in the scoring trailer to no avail. Wagner said if it he had received the penalty, "I'd have gone ballistic."

"They said they gave him extra time," Wagner said. "But his caddie had to pace all the way to the fairway, 100 yards to get his carry number. I'm as against slow play as anybody, and I respect everything everybody is doing. But man, the kid was playing great today ... and I think it's terrible that he got penalized."

Rickman said he did not believe communications was a problem. He said the chairman of the Japan Golf Tour's rules committee walked with the group as an observer and acted as an interpreter.

"I can confirm that the player was fully aware of the circumstances that he was in," Rickman said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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