I think we’ve all agreed that Dustin Johnson should take the most blame for his mistake, but this whole situation just hasn’t sat well with me. As a former competitive golfer, I’ve been playing the above YouTube video (via Geoff Shackelford) repeatedly and wondering what I would have done. Did I read the local rules? Well, the officials usually shoved them down our throats, so I’d at least skim them. But it was usually stuff about the flower beds, etc, and I’d keep a copy in my bag to refer to if needed (which wasn’t often). When it comes to waste bunkers, I would definitely double-check and sometimes ask my playing partners or a rules official for clarification.
Would I have grounded my club in DJ’s situation? I don’t know. I’ve never been on the 72nd hole at a major championship with the lead. But I will say that I probably wouldn’t have bothered calling a rules official if I didn’t think it looked like a bunker. Okay, it kind of looked like sand, but there were also patches of grass mixed in the sand. That’s the main issue here — if a player can’t tell he’s in a bunker, then something’s very, very wrong.
Unfortunately, it was like a perfect storm of everything that could have gone wrong in the situation.