Monday, August 16, 2010
So much to say, so lets get right to it.
Dustin Johnson and his caddy deserve at least 51% of the blame on this one. His golf ball. His tournament. His responsibility.
But the other 49% is squarely on the PGA of America, for a variety of reasons.
Let's go through them.
1. It's one thing to have other player footprints in a trap. But people in a trap! Ridiculous. Lack of proper crowd control improperly disguised that area as a trap. With Watney irrelevant, the rules official should have been right there, making sure there was no confusion. While he may not ADVISE on course of action, an official is certainly allowed to offer unsolicited clarification. IE: "Hey, Dustin. Careful up there. Remember the bunker rule, you might be in one."
2. The PGA's adopted rule for the week, essentially boiled down to "any area that is sandy should be treated as a bunker." Johnson said as much afterward. If so, that's ridiculous. It means that "magic bunkers" can appear during the course of a week. A low area between mounds gets trampled by spectators. Rain washes it out a bit. Sand accumulates in a small area. Voila! One more bunker that Pete Dye didn't have to design himself, and did not "exist" when play began on Thursday. Illogical.
3. Why didn't the rules officials notify Johnson of his violation BEFORE he hit his pitch from beside the green? They were not obligated to do so, but certainly allowed. It would have been the equitable thing to do, since it may have changed his strategy. I have a theory on this. I think the rules officials "pocketed" that ruling, to see if two of the possible three outcomes would dictate that he let Johnson's transgression slide. If Johnson makes par, he wins, and the official makes a tepid inquiry after all the emotion dies down, says no foul, and it's a wrap. If Johnson makes double, he's out of the playoff, and you can bring it up without any hubbub. But if he makes bogey to get into a playoff, but not win, then they were stuck. Just my theory.
My main argument in favor of Johnson is this: I still don't think he was IN that bunker!
Yes, it was a bunker there. I admit that.
Yes, he should have known the rules.
But, I think his ball was sitting on the equivalent of a "washout" of sand, which would NOT be considered part of the hazard. The back edge of that bunker was so trampled and destroyed by thousands of cheese eating 250 pound Packer fans, you simply couldn't tell where it started and where it ended.
And to me, the splotch of sand he was on, was an irregular little finger which almost certainly was not designed, nor would be maintained as such.
To my thinking, it should be incumbent on the PGA rules official to demonstrate with certainty that Johnson was IN that bunker, and not on a washout or spillover.
Just to say: "A bunker is here. Sand goes all the way down this hill to there. People have been treating it like a stolen rental car for a week. All of it is a bunker" creates a totally unenforceable and inequitable situation.
As e-mailer Lou Boezi put it succinctly: "The PGA rule presumed a recognizable but untidy bunker. Johnson's problem was that because of the spectators milling about the bunker simply was not recognizable."
The PGA had good intentions. They wanted to avoid a "this is a waste bunker, this one isn't" situation that screwed Stuart Appleby back in 2004. So they made them all bunkers.
But it's not that easy, and not that black and white. And somebody on the PGA rules staff should have said: "Hey look, fellas. We've got a number of bunkers here, that are essentially ruined. If somebody gets in one, we could have a problem."
That said, let me take a moment to thank Dustin Johnson for hitting the shot in the first place. Wow. Fucking... wowwwww!
I haven't come out of my chair watching golf on TV in at least 6 or 7 years. This shot did it for me.
The future of golf is here. They are 20-something, sickly talented, and hungry. And they don't get bent out of shape at losing a major.
It's like these guys think: "Eh. They have four of them every year. See you at the next one."
This portends poorly for Eldrick's summit assault on Mt. Nicklaus. While this swashbuckling style does not allow for singular dominance the likes with which Tiger achieved, there are enough of these young punks to form a nautical blockade on majors for some time to come.
So while the bulk of the golf world is still all lathered up over the ruling, the real story is this: The Tiger Woods Era, is over. He's not done. But the era, is over.
The media (especially TV types who feasted on Tiger during his amazing reign) are doing all they can to root him back into "form."
Tiger 2.0 (or are we on 3.0?) is going to be a Top-5 player who must fight mightily for those next 4 majors.
But the media are like the kid whose mom told them daddy "went out for a pack of cigarettes." Four years ago.
Daddy isn't coming back, Peter Kostis. And he didn't go out for cigarettes in the first place.
Time to embrace the new blood, and this year's Ryder Cup is going to be a thrilling coming out party.