Monday, August 16, 2010

Busted Dustin

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."

Not happening.

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.


  1. 1. It is such a garbage golf course that if you put the fans behind every bunkered area, they may as well be watching at home.

    2. They told DJ to treat every piece of sand as a bunker and he could get clarification from an official if needed.

    3. Official David Price was not right on top of DJ and did not see him ground his club because he would have brought it up right then. He was not even in the area of the player (he should have been though). The violation issue was brought up from the broadcast trailer, I saw it from my living room and wondered to myself "is that a bunker?".

    Kohler is obviously lining the PGA's pockets and they is why the are coming back in 2015 and Ryder Cup in 2020.

    In summation, the PGA covered their ass in everyway possible even going as far as posting this particular local rule in bold above the shitter but the tour pros don't read nothing. DJ handled it about as well as you could ever hope for. Somebody (officials) spends a great deal of time dotting i's and crossing t's to make the event tight, black and white. Sometimes the golf course makes it difficult and that is why I wish they would never go back to that ditch again.

  2. I have a question. On my hi-def TV I could not definitively see that he touched the ground with his club. Faldo talked about him going through his normal routine, but what if on his normal routine he doesn't ground the club either? Is going through your normal routine considered grounding your club? I wouldn't think so. (Maybe I just have bad eyesight and can't see his club touch the ground.) Feherty talked about how most players don't ground their club on any shot because they don't want the club to get hung up in the grass on their back swing.

    I must admit I had not watched a lot of golf since the Masters, but I agree it is exciting to see these young guns on display. The PGA was a great showcase for them.

  3. Oh, and another thought. I actually loved watching them play the course. I thought it was visually spectacular. I don't get a big thrill at watching them play a course that looks like the country club down the street.

  4. czabe so by their definition any sandy area would seem to also include divots filled with sand. are you now in an even much smaller but still defined bunker if your ball comes to rest in an old divot and you want to sole your club? lets take it down to the lowest common denominator then. and hell yes i want to get my club behind the ball whenever and wherever i can as long as it feels comfortable. screw feherety saying on another radio show that he never grounded his club EVER. these kids grow up playing on the best grass surfaces known to man nowadays and i would guess that every one of the young punks you refer to all ground their club behind the ball whenever they get a chance. this is right up there with making these pros sign their cards with all of the automatic scoring and shot tracking available.

  5. And a final thought...I am now a big fan of Dustin Johnson given how he handled the situation.

  6. Dustin Johnson is the only one to blame. He literally walked by that bunker 5 or 6 times that week, he should of known where he was. If he cannot keep his head, then he does not deserve to win. That is what makes sports great, an amazing athlete folding under pressure is always entertaining.

    Johnson and his caddy are the ONLY people that screwed up this one.

  7. Why was it so hard to deem any sandy area behind the gallery ropes (or marked by a painted line, if necessary) as a waste area, similar to desert golf? PGA blew it on this one.

    Major kudos to Dustin Johnson, for how he handled himself during and after this debacle. I'm sure he's gained a legion of fans from that alone. By the way, he just might be the next American superstar.

  8. Is there an advantage gained by grounding the club?

  9. Have to echo what the others have said. No matter how the round ended what I take away from it is how well Johnson handled it. Great kid, can't wait to see him play again.

  10. Czabe, usually I am with you on everything, but I’m afraid you are simply way off on this one. I’ve seen the replays a ton of times from behind Johnson, and the area he was in was clearly a bunker. There is nothing but sand to his right and the lip of the bunker is clearly visible in front of him to the right.

    I do agree that the fans in the bunker is ridiculous, however the PGA made it crystal clear that all bunkers no matter where they are will be played as such with no relief regardless of the conditions of the sand in them or their location inside or outside of the ropes. It was done on the local rules sheet as item #1 which all players are issued before the start of the tournament. Furthermore, it was posted on large signs in the locker room. The rationale behind this decision was with the intention to make things simpler so there would be no confusion as to what is considered a bunker and where if any relief would be given. Additionally, within the local rule they specifically defined the bunkers as those areas that were designed as such, not tiny patches of sand that pop up when grass has been washed away by rainfall. Every player knows there are rules officials out there to clarify any questions, and they utilize them for clarification in even the most obvious of situations quite frequently.

    Furthermore, if Johnson had simply stepped back, asked that the fans move a little further out of the way, and opened his eyes to the entire situation, it would have all been avoided. Even if he is so focused on making a par and winning a major event, his caddie needs to be aware of the situation. Both failed miserably, and have only themselves to blame. Please stop trying to make excuses for an inexcusable mistake. You regularly bash NFL coaches and other sports personalities for making honest mistakes with the rationale that; you can’t make that mistake in that spot, or your head is not in the game, or you are an idiot, etc. Let’s be consistent here.

  11. I watched kids making sand castles in bunkers out there. The PGA has a picture on their website of kids playing with the sand in bunkers. This is joke. They had no control over anything out there, much less the bunkers.
    What happens when you are behind a sand castle that some spoiled kid built because his self absorbed parents are to busy talking during everyones backswing. The PGA should be ashamed of this ruling. I stood in that very area and there was so much washout of what they deemed to be sand. That was not sand it was dirt that got there because of all the idiots who dont even know what a golf swing looks like, much less the ability to keep their fat asses out of the way of a guy trying to do his job.
    Five years from now when the PGA is back there. They will be short a least one fan

  12. A lady's leg was HANGING in this "bunker" while he addressed his ball. The ruling is ridiculous and a real travesty. If the bunker doesn't fit you must acquit!

  13. I really don't know which way to lean on this one. Dustin knew, or should have, that all sand areas on the course are bunkers.
    On the other hand, there were so many people crowded around, the bunker was impossible to see.
    Even after the official told him that he grounded his club in a bunker, Johnson said, "What bunker?"
    He may have lost out on $800K, but he's got a new fan in me.

  14. In response to mr. falfa's question about what advantage could be gained by DJ grounding his club. Rule 13-4 prohibits touching the ground in a hazard with a hand or club because a player may be able to gauge the firmness or consistency of the said hazard (bunkers are hazards by definition). The cool part about the rules of golf is that they are universal and can be carried to every level of play. I had the unfortunate task to disqualify a 7 year old last week because his dad did not get him to the course on time. Crappy deal but the facts are that he was late. They are based on facts and not possibilities. The question is not relevant "did he gain an advantage by touching the ground." It is a matter of fact that he touched the ground and that is prohibited by the rules and therefore a penalty. As I said before in my earlier post though, you try to eliminate all of the crappy scenarios by making sure that your golf course is set up as tight as possible to keep these questions of "is it a bunker" out of the equation. That is why a place like Whistling Straits should be eliminated because the same thing has come up twice in two tournaments and it is obviously a problem.

  15. One other advantage that can possibly be gained by grounding your club in a bunker is that you are pressing down on the sand, giving better access to the back of the ball & thereby improving the chance of controlling the shot.

  16. DJ admitted to not fully reading the rules handout... nuf said.

    Some of you posters really have me wondering what rock you crawled out from under. What's the big deal? You still had an awesome round and a playoff... that's qality golf as I see it.

    Sheesh, you guys can really get your undies in a bundle over this stuff...

  17. Shanks: Wouldn't that fall under the improving your lie rule?

    Steve: Can't you gauge the firmness of the hazard from waling around? Also, did you just feel you owed it to the 7 year old to go all Judge Smails on him?

  18. I marshaled at this event (NOT hole 18) and have played the course twice. There are so many bunkers that it would be impossible to view the event if you kept spectators out of them. Hell, I think there are even bunkers in the clubhouse. Some gallery ropes go right through bunkers...what would you do then? Half bunker and half waste area??

    The Scots envisioned bunkers as a 1 stroke penalty. There's no difference between a bunker with a sand castle and one where some sheep huddling from the wind just took a crap. Only the American country club mentality produced pristine bunkers that actually gives tour pros an advantage over hitting out of grass. Pete Dye and the PGA are trying to reverse that thinking.

    This is one of the greatest courses on the planet and a tribute to the evil genius of Pete Dye. I sat on the plane near a tour caddy who said that Dustin (and his caddy) simply screwed up. Let's just accept it and move on.

  19. Bob, Although you can gauge a little consistency by walking around in a hazard but it is necessary if you are going to allow play out of the hazards. I hate applying the rules to 7 year olds because they always begin to cry and the guys around the shop never let you live it down, it is the pits.

    Also, you are right with regards to shanks comment about pressing down the club behind the ball firmly, you can't do that in a bunker or out. Rule 13-1 is the longest single sentence in the world. It covers lie, area of intended swing and stance. Just a bunch of commas and semicolons but no periods.

  20. It would have been great if Dustin just dropped that official with an upper cut for touching him...Bitch you are not my father, I am not looking for a hug!!!!!