Dustin Johnson in a "real" bunker.
What Where They Thinking
By Snyper on 8/17/10
By Matt Snyder, oobgolf Contributor

Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

The PGA Championship proved to be another great week of golf and for the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, the rules committee did their best to ruin, or at least taint, the finish forever. For any of you who may have missed it, Dustin Johnson made two great birdies on 16 and 17 to take the lead on the final day. Then, on 18, he made what he thought was a bogie, which landed him in a 3-way tie with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson. But, thanks to an absolutely stupid rules decision, Johnson was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker on 18. That penalty meant that he went from a chance to win in the playoff to a tie for 5th place. Unbelievable.

Whistling Straits has somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 bunkers.

Now, lets get to the reason that this situation ever happened. Whistling Straits has somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 bunkers. Many of those bunkers are located in areas of the course that fans are permitted to walk and stand to watch the tournament. The PGA Rules Committee addressed these bunkers that are located "outside the ropes" and it was determined by them that all areas that were designed and built as bunkers would be played as hazards. That meant that players had to address these sand traps with the same approach as a normal bunker on any golf course. The only exception was that a local rule was instated allowing players to remove stones from these bunkers. The players were all notified of this decision in a bulletin that was issued before the tournament began.

Ok, they let the players know ahead of time via a bulletin. Fair enough, I guess. But, why in the world would you force players to play out of bunkers that the gallery is walking through and that equipment is being driven through as if they were a typical sand bunker/hazard? These bunkers are the very definition of waste bunkers! They were being used as a part of walkways and cart paths. How simple would it have been to state that all sandy areas, outside the ropes, were to be played as waste bunkers? This would allow players to play a lie in these random sandy areas as if it were a lie in the rough. After all, did you see the “bunker” he was in? It was a joke! It was a trampled down sandy patch of ground. It didn't look like any bunker that I have ever seen on a golf course. And, apparently, Dustin Johnson felt the same way. It never crossed his mind that he was in a sand trap, because he wasn't!
The PGA Rules Committee decided that it would be fun to have people walk around and drive carts through the bunkers.

Anybody who has ever watched a PGA Tour event has seen the precision and care that is given to the bunkers at every course on Tour. They are perfectly raked and manicured. However, this week, the PGA Rules Committee decided that it would be fun to have people walk around and drive carts through the bunkers. Are you kidding me!? What logic is there behind that decision? How does that do anything except create countless possible problems for the players and officials? You just call them waste bunkers and the story is over! Dustin Johnson finishes with a bogie and goes into a 3-way playoff. Whoever wins is known for winning a major in the most clutch of all situations and golf fans everywhere celebrate an awesome tournament finish. Instead, few will remember the winner and Johnson will be remembered for losing a shot at a major championship title on a technicality. Good job PGA! You really got it right on this decision. The only thing that they have to be thankful for is that Johnson didn’t make his par putt on 18. If that putt had gone in, the place would have gone crazy and he would have been celebrating his first major championship only to have it all ripped away from him. That would have been an absolute travesty and the PGA Tour would have looked even more irresponsible than they already do.

I was once told that out of all bad, there is some good. In this case, the good that resulted from this monumental blunder in judgment was the class that Dustin Johnson displayed in such a brutal moment. Not only did he agree to do an interview only minutes after all this had happened, he never even complained about the decision. He had nothing but good things to say! He referred to the situation as an “unfortunate incident” and focused on the fact that he had played really well and that he was happy with his game. In fact, he even blamed himself and commented that he should have looked at the rules sheet a little harder. True as that may have been, it took a lot of class to accept that as his mistake so soon after it had happened. I can only imagine the emotions that he was feeling at that point in time, but he didn’t blame anyone other than himself. That was very classy and great to see from such a young player.

Call them what they are, waste bunkers. Otherwise, keep the fans, golf carts, and maintenance vehicles out of them!

So, since he didn’t do it, I figured that I would blame the true culprit in this injustice. I hope the Rules Committee does a little more thinking before they create any more "traps" for players to fall into. Call them what they are, waste bunkers, and let us enjoy the thrill of a 3-way playoff to crown a champion! Otherwise, keep the fans, golf carts, and maintenance vehicles out of them! It doesn’t seem like that crazy of a request, does it?

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source


[ comments ]
Optimus Prime says:
Well said and amen!
8/17/10
 
greendevil says:
I feel so bad for Dustin; it was so apparent how disappointed he was when he found out he would not be in the 3-way playoff. So we know he lost a chance to win the Wannamaker; but does anybody know how much that 2-shot penalty cost him, money wise?

With his complete collapse at the US Open and the travesty at the PGA I hope he wins the Masters next year. He's played well enough to win a major in 2010 and I'm definitely rooting for him to win one in 2011.
8/17/10
 
Scott Shields says:
It cost him approx 1mil. he took I think 275k and the winner took about 1.2mil...everyone talks about Rory like he's going to be the second coming, but I think DJ is legit. he made a hell of a push at pebble, and damn near won this thing. Its too bad.
8/17/10
 
homermania says:
The PGA made the right call. Sounds like the locals rules were clearly communicated with the players. What tainted the situation is how they dragged out the decision for so long instead of just making the call and getting the two man playoff started. Still sucks for Dustin.
8/17/10
 
coojofresh says:
idk rules are rules. he should have hit it on the fairway and not into the people. it is one of those oh well situations. plus pete doesn't want it changed.
8/17/10
 
SingleDigits says:
I feel bad for DJ too, but in the CBS interview the Head of Rules Official mentioned that this particular rule was the #1 item on the rules sheet that was handed to each player, posted in the locker room, and posted on the first tee.

They went over the top to make it very clear because when the PGA Championship was first played there in 2004, Stuart Appleby was penalized four shots late in the third round for removing a dead piece of grass (two shots) to the right of the 16th hole and touching the sand on a practice swing (two shots).
8/17/10
 
SD Charlie says:
This was a perfect situation for the walking official to either A) clear the area, so Johnson could see that he was in a bunker, or at least B) remind Johnson that he's in a bunker (OK with the rules). The official didn't need to be hanging out near the fairway with Watney 8 strokes back of the lead.
8/17/10
 
BME_Badger says:
With 1200 bunkers you can't take the time to mark each one and say how it will or won't play. The players should have known that if there was any question they could ask the rules official walking with their group or just assume it is a bunker and play it accordingly.

Oh, and don't hit your drive on the 72nd hole in a major 70 yards offline and you'll be ok.

The PGA made the proper decision and he handled it admirably.
8/17/10
 
Agustin says:
The PGA should care about the courses as much as they care about equipment. If they are so picky about grooves they should be also picky about the courses played and NEVER allow the gallery on to a bunker that is playing as a bunker and not a waste area.
8/17/10
 
rangered says:
Unfortunately, this was a mickey mouse decision on the world's most "tricked up" course. Memorizing the posted rules sheet wouldn't have changed anything. Now Dye wants to put in more bunkers.....PGA made the right decision?, I DON'T THINK SO. Let's see, there's a BIG boulder in the way of my swing (says the animal). PGA says that's incidental, we'll just move it away with NO penalty. Talk about two faced decisions, these two top the list.
8/17/10
 
Bryan K says:
Personally, I think players should be allowed to ground their clubs when they are in hazards. But that's just me.
8/17/10
 
tennesseeboy says:
The PGA has a problem. They have to play "open" courses so the gallery will have a place to view the tournament. Open courses favor guys like DJ who hit the ball 350 yards long and 60 yards wide. They could stop this kind of play by declaring the gallery out of bounds and forcing players to hit more controlled shots. However, that conflicts with another PGA goal, providing exciting television coverage. What's more exciting, watching Dustin Johnson hit out of a trampled bunker or watching him mark a penalty on his score card.
8/17/10
 
Banker85 says:
Dustin is the real deal for sure. Sucks it went down like this but he should have known and paid more attention to his surroundings. Dont get me wrong i am pissed about it too.

What about Watney blowing up for a +9 round! what a choker!
8/17/10
 
Dugini says:
David Ferhety made the sagest comment, "Whenever I was in doubt about sand trap vs. waste bunker I just wouldn't ground my club to play it safe." Nick Faldo concurred immediately that was the way he handled the situation too. Something for the younger golfers to consider.
8/17/10
 
SingleDigits says:
Who was the player this year who called a penalty on himself (I think it was the final round) when he brushed a dead grass stalk on his backswing. It was the weirdest penalty. If it was alive/growing, no penalty. Since it was dead, 2 stroke penalty.
8/17/10
 
birdieXris says:
@single - I remember that. it was this year at the verizon heritage. Brian Davis knocked a blade of grass on his backswing and called the penalty on himself. themes the rules. a class act that was for sure. he called the penalty and gave up what would have been his first tour victory. :-( still a shame.

I think the thing that burns me in this whole thing is that the rules official was never there. they said he could t make it through the crowd. bs. 3 people should be at that ball if its in the crowd. player, caddie, and ro. you don't know if its on someones foot, a chair, anything until you get there.
8/17/10
 
Sparker1969 says:
Dustin Johnson was entirely at fault and deserved his 279 score.

The joke is those throwing a fit because a bunker, a HAZARD, had been walked in and "poor little DJ" had to hit out of it. Will Pebble Beach need to make sure their beaches in the water hazards are well groomed and cleared of spectators during the next AT&T or Open? What will Pine Valley do if the USGA dares to hold an event there again?

Last week we had winter rules at all times, this week it's whining about hazards not being fair, next week we'll have Out of Bounds: why not just play it like a lateral water hazard?

BAH!
8/17/10
 
cjgiant says:
I agree a hazard is a hazard. Sand traps have no requirement to be raked or pristine. I also think said hazards need to be well defined like any other hazard (stakes and lines are important to lateral hazards).

I think the decision to allow spectators to roam through the hazards called for a decision that became local rule #1 as described. I think the decision was poor because of the potential destruction of the definition lines of these hazards by spectators.
8/17/10
 
Werepuppie says:
I really cannot accept all this crying for DJ.The rule was clearly stated,and posted.This same thing happened to Appleby in the 2002 PGA and he was penalized 2 strokes for grounding his club in the bunker.To make sure there was no repeat the PGA posted the rule covering this exaxct situation,AND held a meeting about it which Jim Nantz attended.He mentioned this on air.
Surely with a rules official right there,DJ or his caddie,BOTH of whom should have known the rules,had only to ask the official.They did not.
8/17/10
 
jbird2011 says:
SD Charlie said it best. The walking official should have said something or cleared the bunker out when a player is deep into the crowd leadig by one going into 18.
8/17/10
 
Clint24 says:
A local rule sheet?? Thats all?? I've been given one or two before and have just scanned over it. Why not have a NASCAR-style driver's meeting before hand. Before every race, the NASCAR officials meet with all the drivers, crew chiefs, owners, and so forth to let them all know the rules of the race, track, and what else is going on. How can you be certain that everyone will read a sheet of paper?? With this style, they can atleast know that everyone is listening. It works in NASCAR, why coulndt it work in the PGA??
8/17/10
 
TeT says:
AGAIN he never thought he made a bogey... Nice act but no cigar.
8/18/10
 
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
DJ definitely should have asked. I also agree that bunkers the galleries are walking through should not be played the same as a green side or fairway bunker. I take my hat off to him for handling it the way he did. I wonder which major loss stung more tho. I'm thinking this one.
8/18/10
 
windowsurfer says:
Apparently walking official was on hand and asked DJ, "Do you need anything?" Pretty oblique. What is protocol here? Is the official supposed to point out possible penalties or just be there as a resource? Either way, the ultimate responsibilty is with the player, whatever the protocol.
8/18/10
 
TomPong says:
He must have seen his ball lying in the sand, and he knew what to expect after hitting it into the crowds, so before i hit a shot out of any sandy lie, i have to check, if it is a bunker or not.....ok it was the final hole of the pga championship, in that situation you are nervous and your heart is pumping, but it was his mistake and maybe his caddy's. My opinion: hard decision but a fair one ,.........the championship ends with signing the scorecard, no matter how close you come
8/18/10
 
mdbuschsr says:
The sentimental side of me agrees with those that are siding with DJ. While watching, I thought it was a travesty to "take it away" from him. In retrospect, I have to agree with the other faction that says ultimately it's DJs responsibility to know where he is on the course. Perhaps playing a course with nearly as much sand as grass skews things, but in the end the rules are the rules. As for the Nascar reference, I have to disagree. There are still plenty of arguments regarding track rules all the time.

An adult that is handed a rule sheet should read and understand it. Saying that the rules officials can't be sure if the players have read it or not is like saying the mortgage lender can't be sure that the borrower has read the contract before signing it. And if there is one document that should be explained to the signer it would be that.
8/18/10
 
mantajim says:
Everyone keeps saying DJ should have read the rules sheet. Do you realy believe DJ doesn't know the rules for playing out of a bunker?!!!! He never believed he was in a bunker and so played it as such. There were foot prints, chopped up and trampled grass on a patch of dirt and no defined edge, nor could he see the other edges of the bunker because of the crowd. When interviewed after, the rules official actually said the players should consider ANY PATCH of sand at Whistling Straits a bunker no matter how small the patch. Talk about covering your ass, they have got to be kidding! Any patch of sand, I'll bet that wording was not on the rules sheet.
8/18/10
 
cjgiant says:
@mantajim - totally agree - if he had read the rule sheet I am not sure he would have done anything different. Of course, he should have read the rules sheet and probably should have erred on side of caution.

The original post is about the decision to make the out-of-rope bunkers normal bunkers. This question could be (but wouldn't be) asked regardless of DJ's situation. DJ is to blame for his score (if he were in a water hazard but didn't see the stakes, is it the course's fault?), but I think the decision (i.e. any patch of sand?!) lent a hand to the situation.
8/18/10
 
gostanley says:
There are ONLY TWO people to blame. The player and his caddie. Period. When in Doubt.... ASK the rules official. Better yet,READ the ammendment they put out,posted in the locker room,and have a rules official walking with you. You know what they say Dustin about assuming. That's right,you the ASS for not asking. Maybe next time you will....
8/18/10
 
davey4 says:
I keep seeing the "rules official" should have said something to warn Dustin. I dont think that is his job. In football they dont say "Psst, you are lined up offside. better step back a bit." The blame falls on Dustin first... his caddy second.
8/19/10
 
tennesseeboy says:
Come on people. Maybe my television is better than most but what he was in sure looked like a bunker to me. It was not a small patch of sand. His ball was clearly sitting on packed sand. Maybe it was hard to tell exactly where the borders of the bunker were but he was in the middle so the borders where not an issue.
8/19/10
 
jcstoll says:
Heard an interview with the walking official in which he said he asked DJ, "You need anything?" DJ's reply was to get the crowd back. The official admitted that he wished he had instead asked "You need anything IN THAT BUNKER?" The official just assumed DJ knew (and why wouldn't he?) I gather the Golden Bear never grounded his club - that removes all doubt.
8/19/10
 
mantajim says:
Come on Tennesseeboy, DJ was standing in grass and there was nothing that looked like an edge. DJ WAS THERE, and he said not once did he think he was in a bunker. And I'll take his word over yours, heck he played the course. And with a million+ on the line if there was any doubt in his mind he wouldn't have ground his club. When interviewed after he said he never once thought that he was in a bunker.
8/19/10
 
David B says:
He should NEVER have hit it OB. He did. He paid a stiff penalty. If I were the PGA, I would not have done anything different. DJ did not use his head. Him and his caddie are the ONLY ones to blame. IF I were his caddie, I would ALWAYS move the crowd back from the player. I would NOT allow a player to hit down a tunnel of people - EVER. Had this been done, DJ would have had a better chance of seeing that a bunker existed and made a better decision. Fault - DJ. It was a great tourney nonetheless!
8/20/10
 
homermania says:
This story even made the Onion:

www.theonion.com/articles/trivial-point-of-order
8/20/10
 
mantajim says:
@David B. I agree about the lack of crowd control. If they had been pushed back he might of recognized he was in a bunker.
Just to be clear DJ was NOT Out of Bounds.
8/20/10
 
DougE says:
Okay, this has nothing to do with the actual Dustin Johnson bunker situation, but rather the headline of this story. Didn't anyone notice? What WHERE they thinking? That should be "were" Matt, not where. Sorry, don't mean to be an ass, just wearing my editor's hat today. Forgive my righteous attitude. Can't help myself.
8/20/10
 
falcon50driver says:
DougE thanks. It bugs me too, when people don't know the difference between "THERE, THEIR, THEY'RE"..and.. "SITE, SIGHT" Or can't figure out that i is supposed to be I.
8/21/10
 
umdoh says:
ok the problem i have isn't with the rule per say, it's with the lack of "balls" pardon me. the Rules committee showed. Think about this. If your going to claim. It's in the best interest of the game to be a stickler about the rules, Then why did dustin only get the on penalty? He grounded his club 3x in that same bunker. once before he saw the shadow move, then in his normal setup routine he does it 2x. once on the inside of the ball where he completely takes his right hand off the club and lays the grip in his left hand while the head is on the ground. then grounds behind the ball. Why did the almighty PGA rules committee only slap him with 2shots when if your going to go all the way like they did to F*** a guy. then do it right. 6 shots .
8/22/10
 
Snyper says:
I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't matter how many times you ground your club. Once you ground it, it is a two stroke penalty. You could take a practice swing and then ground it 10 more times in the same bunker and it would only be a 2-stroke penalty. So, grounding it is grounding it, despite the number of times you actually touch the sand.
8/22/10
 
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