Muirfield's a tough course, with slick greens and treacherous rough. What better place to put players on the clock?
The R&A decided to make a point about slow play on Saturday, placing several pairings on the clock and serving up the second penalty in a major this year for slow play. Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez were among those warned for playing too slow.
However, it was another player, Hideki Matsuyama, who was actually hit with a one-stroke penalty for slow play. The R&A issued the following statement:
Hideki Matsuyama’s group was put on the clock on the 15th hole as they were 15 minutes over the scheduled time and were out of position on the group ahead. His first bad time was recorded on his first putt on the 15th at 1 minute 12 seconds. The group was still out of position. His second bad time was on his second shot to the 17th hole which was 2 minutes 12 seconds. That resulted in a one shot penalty being applied to his score on the 17th hole which became 6. As a result, his even-par 71 became a 72, and he dropped to 3-over for the championship.
However, Johnson Wagner, Matsuyama's playing partner, strongly disagreed with the penalty. "I don't think he took too long under the situation," he said. "I think it's tragic, and the R&A should use better judgment in the penalizing of it."
It sounds rough, and combined with the penalty on Guan Tianlang at the Masters in Augusta, it sounds suspicious. But two-plus minutes for a shot? That's a little much.
With so much at stake on Sunday, it's likely that the timers will keep their watches in their pockets. But if not? There'll be some angry golfers.