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Matsuyama penalized one stroke for slow play

Kyodo, AP

Hideki Matsuyama vowed to climb back into contention at the British Open despite being hit with a one-stroke penalty that he found maddening in the third round Saturday.

Matsuyama shot a 1-over 72 on the day to sit in 11th, six shots behind leader Lee Westwood.

Matsuyama was penalized on the 17th for slow play, after being put on the clock from the 15th alongside playing partner Johnson Wagner with the pair 15 minutes behind schedule.

The 21-year-old rising star was first warned on the 15th with a putt that took 1 minute, 12 seconds. He received the penalty after his second shot on the 17th needed 2 minutes, 12 seconds.

On average, the player hitting first is allowed 50 seconds per shot, the latter 40 seconds.

Matsuyama felt he did not deserve the penalty and found the decision inexplicable.

“I didn’t think I was taking that long, but what can you do,” said Matsuyama, who has won twice on the Japanese tour this season.

“There was no one playing behind us, so I found it a bit strange they were timing us.

“There’s not a whole lot I could have done at that point. What I should have done was forget about it and concentrate on the last hole, which I ended up bogeying.”

David Rickman, the Royal & Ancient’s rules director, 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.

Matsuyama was only three shots out of first at the time of the penalty — he rattled off consecutive birdies from the ninth to the 11th — but bogeyed his last two holes under surveillance.

Wagner said he argued on behalf of Matsuyama in the scoring trailer to no avail. Wagner said if 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.”

Wagner said he supports penalties for slow play — just not in this case.

“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.”

Matsuyama, though, has not ruled himself out just yet.

“I still have confidence in my game,” he said. “I still have a chance and I’m not going to give up. I’ll keep working.”