Aug
20
2010
Renowned Golf Instructor Jim McLean on Bunker-Gate
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

I know most of you are done with Bunker-Gate and I promise this is the last post on the debacle (until something else intriguing pops up), but I emailed a few times with Jim McLean, teacher to Erik Compton, Cristie Kerr and Alexis Thompson, on the issue.

Here’s what Jim had to say. (The emails have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

Where was an official or officials? The scene on#18 lasted a long time. There was chaos with the gallery everywhere. When was the last time spectators were standing in a bunker? Answer: Never.

David Feherty was on the scene and on TV saying it was a waste bunker or just a flat worn out sandy area. But it was not a bunker. Feherty is a true golf expert — great player himself, Ryder Cup Team member. Dustin was in the last group leading a major.

Any official seeing a potential serious infraction is expected and his duty to warn the player. It did not look like a bunker to anyone. There are many ways this could have been handled without a 2 stroke penalty. It really looked bad. Embarrassing. This might have cost Dustin a Major.  It detracted from the whole event.

Hiding behind a note on the player info sheet is very weak. It is wrong to most who saw it. We all saw dirt fly out after contact. Just so odd that no official could recognize the oddity of this entire fiasco.

I responded asking what he’d suggest a solution would be for dealing with the bunkers at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. I also mentioned the “blue dot” stipulation in the local rules and that I had not seen any “blue dots” around bunkers where the definition wasn’t clear. Jim’s response:

If they are small bunkers that are marked with a blue dot, then the gallery cannot stand in them. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Sure, there were other patches similar to where Dustin’s ball landed that were just dirt/sand patches. These were not bunkers. My point would be that after literally thousands of spectators stood in and moved around that so-called bunker, it had become unrecognizable as a bunker.

It was the last round of a major and the gallery had been allowed to stand in the small bunkers. Galleries do not stand in bunkers ever, anywhere else in the world. If they do, it’s called a waste bunker, where you can ground the club.

It was an obvious spot for an official and they had to know it on Sunday with thousands of gallery standing and walking in that area. Not anyone in that gallery thought they were walking in a bunker. We all heard the yells on TV.

You could compare this ruling with Brian Davis at Hilton Head. Totally the opposite with an official right on the spot and video clearly showing the infraction.

Now who can forget Davis’ moment of honor at the Verizon Heritage earlier this year!

[Photo by Allan Henry/Golf Chronicles]