Johnson’s misfortune a timely reminder

LOS ANGELES - Dustin Johnson’s two-stroke penalty on the final hole of the U.S. PGA Championship has served as a timely reminder that players should always acquaint themselves with local rules, a European Tour official said.

By (Reuters)

Published: Tue 17 Aug 2010, 2:20 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:07 AM

Johnson, one ahead playing the last at Whistling Straits on Sunday, was penalised two shots for grounding his club in a bunker to the right of the fairway, an infringement that cost him a place in a playoff for the title.

“We all feel sympathy for him but it was clear-cut from what I saw on television,” European Tour chief referee John Paramor said on Monday after officiating at the tournament in Kohler, Wisconsin.

“I had finished duty when I looked at the television and I thought: ‘He’s grounded his club in a bunker.’ I just couldn’t believe it.

“And you can’t suddenly bring emotion into it, bearing in mind his position in the tournament. He’s just like the guy who tees off at the first and grounds his club in a bunker in the first round. It’s exactly the same, it’s the same penalty.”

The drama arose after Johnson’s errant drive landed in a sandy area. As he approached his ball, the lip of the bunker was not immediately obvious because of the crowd gathered around and he grounded his club before playing his next shot.

“It never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap,” Johnson said in a televised interview. “I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down.


“Obviously I know the rules of golf and I can’t ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder.”

Johnson finished the 72 regulation holes in a three-way tie with compatriot Bubba Watson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer of Germany at 11-under par 277 but was relegated to joint fifth after a television review confirmed the infringement.

“My advice to anyone playing in a competition is that you should know the rules and regulations under which you’re playing,” Paramor said. “It doesn’t take an awful lot to look at that.

“We contact everyone on the first tee on day one. Every player is given a local rules sheet and if it’s something particularly important we also display it in prominent places because we know an awful lot of them don’t read that sheet.”

The par-72 Straits Course is studded with around 1,200 bunkers, many of which are not in play. When the PGA Championship was first held at the venue in 2004, Australian Stuart Appleby also fell foul of the local rules.

Appleby was penalised four shots in the third round for removing a piece of grass from a bunker off the fairway on the 16th hole and then grounding his club with a practice swing.

“That’s why we posted the rules sheet all over the locker room,” Paramor said. “We were trying to avoid a similar occurrence.

“You would hope we would never experience it again but you have to consider the nature of the competing professional, the way that he becomes single-minded in what he’s doing at the time and doesn’t necessarily pay that much attention to where he is and what he’s doing.”

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