Monday, 16 August 2010

Johnson 'Sand-Trapped' at Whistling Straits - Guest Post by Jared Ptaszkiewicz

By Jared Ptaszkiewicz

In the early spring of 1968, Gay Brewer placed The Green Jacket around the shoulders of Bob Goalby, crowing him Masters Champion. The Green Jacket - maybe the ultimate of symbol of golf victory - would cement the legacy of Bob Goalby as a champion at Augusta National.

What’s that? You don’t remember Bob Goalby? You don't remember that the he won the Masters in 1968? Don’t worry, neither did I. I had to look up the winner of the tournament that year because the 1968 Masters is remembered more for the man who finished second rather than its champion. That man was Roberto DeVincenzo. By accidentally signing an incorrect score card DeVincenzo was credited with a score of 66, rather than the 65 that he actually shot. This mistake cost him a stroke, a place in a playoff, and possibly a Green Jacket.

Flash forward 42 years to the 2010 PGA Championship. Germany's Martin Kaymer defeats
Bubba Watson in a three hole playoff to win his first Major Championship. Unfortunately for Kaymer this tournament may be remembered less for his victory and
more for the man who missed out on the playoff, Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who led by one shot going into the final hole, made bogey and dropped into a three man playoff with Kaymer and Watson. Or so we all thought. Leaving the 18th green, Johnson was stopped by a rules official and was told there was a problem. After much debate and many replays it was determined that on Johnson’s second shot on the 18th hole he grounded his club in a sand trap, incurring a two stroke penalty, which took his final round score from a 71 to a 73 and ruled him out of the playoff.

I was watching as these events unfolded late Sunday afternoon, and while some
will blame the rules committee for being unfair, others will blame Dustin Johnson for
being - and I hate to say this - stupid. I can see it both sides of the argument. In the initial replays of where Johnson’s ball came to rest I could see that it was indeed in sand. Sand that was covered in foot prints from where gallery members had been standing seconds earlier. My initial thoughts were that it was a waste area (a hazard in which it is perfectly legal to ground your club). However, the PGA Championship Rules Committee had posted local rule notices in the locker room stating that all sand traps - both those inside and outside the ropes - were to be played as such, regardless of condition.

Should Dustin Johnson have known the rule? Absolutely, or at the very least, he should have been more aware of his surroundings and asked for an official ruling. Should the rule have been in place to begin with? If that’s the way the tournament officials wanted the tournament to be played, than yes. But at the same time the Rules Committee should have had the foresight to see any potential confusion as a possibility, and made sure that each and every player was told face to face and not just with a posting in the locker room.

Unfortunately what had been a great tournament was marred by a decision that was
made off of the course. Like Bob Goalby in 1968, Martin Kaymer became a Major
Championship winner on Sunday. And like his predecessor Roberto DeVincenzo, Dustin
Johnson (especially after his collapse on the final day of the US Open earlier in the year) may end up being remembered more for not being one.

Jared Ptaszkiewicz

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