I watched the end of the PGA Championship in amazement. The drama of the last few holes with Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory Mcilroy, Steve Elkington, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson was awesome…. I was routing for pretty much everyone and that was kind of fun. Dustin’s Shot from the junk behind the 18th green was spectacular! As much as I was ready for a playoff with Bubba and Dustin, at that point, I thought it was a great time for Dustin to win his first major….
Then the rules official came over. I couldn’t believe what was happening! I think I felt much like former tour professional David Feherity who was incredulous about the ruling! It never crossed anyone’s mind that what Dustin’s ball lay in was a bunker!
My initial reaction was that the call was bogus. I was hoping someone would walk in and say, “enough, let’s get the three way playoff started. That was dirt, not a bunker.”
Then I heard the response of Mark Wilson, the USGA Rules official who described the situation. I have tremendous respect for these guys, and I believe the rules of golf are by far the best laid out rules of any sport. Add to that fact that the integrity of the game rests with the player, and the rules officials time and time again work to help golfers make the right decision, Mr. Wilson’s comments made the situation quite clear. Because the local rules sheet stated that all areas “intended” to be bunkers on Whistling Straits would be considered hazards and treated as such, the USGA got the call right.
Do I think that Dustin gained an advantage by grounding his club? No. Do I think that he had mal intent by grounding his club? Absolutely not! Do I think he deserved to be in the playoff? You bet!!!
But emotion can’t rule the day in this situation. Not being aware is not an excuse for a rules violation.
The rules officials aren’t looking to penalize in golf, they are simply there to make sure that all golfers play under the same conditions of competition. Maybe it was unfortunate that anyone noticed, but in the era of T.V., nothing goes un-noticed. Because it was brought to the attention of the officials, they were then obligated to bring it to Dustin’s attention.
The integrity of the game must be more important than the emotion of the moment. I don’t like it either, but I applaud the USGA rules officials, again.