Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don't feel sorry for Dustin Johnson

Written for your enjoyment by: Raff

You're sick of reading about Dustin Johnson and the PGA Championship that he lost the opportunity to win when he triple-bogeyed the last hole at Whistling Straits while holding a one-shot lead. Of course, two of those strokes came from a penalty for grounding his club while in a sand trap (hazard). So without that penalty he'd have forced his way into the playoff. Well I'm sick of reading about it to.

Johnson broke the rules. And for all of you non-golfing folks out there who think the rule doesn't matter. It does. And it's not an obscure rule. The first round of golf you play, the first time you go in a sand trap, you know from that point on when you're in a bunker (or any hazard for that matter) you can't ground your club. And you come to realize that grounding your club is a tactical advantage. Of the 50-60 swings I make in a normal round, I ground my club on all of those. Except for the ones I'm in a bunker. And if for no other reason than the comfort of it, grounding the club becomes an advantage. And if every golfer had the opportunity to ground their club in a hazard they would take that opportunity.

This wasn't the case of a silly rule that had no effect on the actual result of the tournament being ignored. Instead, it was a rule that was misinterpreted by Johnson. He took the liberty of assuming he wasn't in a bunker. All the information that the PGA and Whistling Straits put out about the local rule ahead of time said differently - but at the time where he needed clarification he got none. There was a rules official with him, all he had to do was ask. He didn't. And if he disagreed with the decision with the rules official with him, he could have asked for a tournament rules director to get clarification. He had all those opportunities. And maybe he never even thought he was in a bunker - but come on, it was a sandy lie on a course with 1100+ bunkers, chances were pretty good it was a bunker.

For those of us who play the game, we know that when we hit the ball 70 yards right and we venture into the wilderness we're looking for red or yellow stakes or asking our playing partners what we can or can't do with the lie from there. It's a real part of the game. And at the most important part of his golfing career, Johnson forgot about the rule. Or forgot where his ball was. Or forgot to ask. It's a pretty big mistake.

So don't feel bad for Johnson for making that mistake. Don't feel bad that he finished two strokes (the penalty) out of the lead instead of tied for it. It's a simple rule, one that he knows, and has known for as long as he has played the game. And at the time where his game needed it the most, he chose to ignore it. Something tells me that next time, he'll ask.

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