Miss me? Apologies for abandoning my duties to provide thrilling golf news updates, but I needed a week to recover from The Kiawah Logistical Nightmare, along with the mosquito bites, shuttle-itis, and excessive golf writer bitterness (careful: it’s contagious!).
Oh, just kidding. I actually had PGA-itis. Okay, I’m kidding again. Kind of. I had some stuff I had to deal with (sleep being one of them), but I’m back now and almost ready for The Barclays at Bethpage Black!
Hat tip to those on Twitter who sent me the link to the above video of the shot where Carl Pettersson, hitting out of a lateral hazard, grazed a leaf on his backswing and received a two-shot penalty on the first hole (and big thanks to Yahoo’s Jay Busbee for posting it).
I watched the replay rather closely — more than once — and I didn’t see The Leaf in question when Pettersson hit the shot. It was only when it was shown in super slo-mo and zoomed in that I could see the club cause a small flyaway object to change position (and I had to really squint to catch The Leaf).
My apologies I haven’t been able to post anything here, but blame the PGA of America (and Pete Dye). I have been able to tweet plenty, though! And take pictures! So that’s where I’m sharing insights and content I’d usually write in more detail in this space.
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.
Watching Dustin Johnson erase the “5” on his scorecard was downright heartbreaking. The high from all the drama on Sunday afternoon and the anticipation of a thrilling finish was shattered shortly after the controversial bunker ruling that pulled Johnson from a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
Despite the confusion and fog delays, the PGA Championship had shaped up to become the most exciting major of the season. No disrespect to either Graeme McDowell or Louis Oosthuizen, but their wins didn’t exactly have people on the edge of their seats. The confusion, chaos and idiosyncrasies (or unique circumstances) of the absurdly contrived course, particularly with nearly a thousand bunkers that came in all shapes and sizes, quickly erupted into sympathy for Johnson, outrage, and more confusion.
I watched the playoff live even though my mood was dampened by the Dustin Johnson bunker debacle. I ended up standing next to Herb Kohler and Pete Dye behind the 18th green as Kaymer and Bubba putted out. Mr. Kohler didn’t seem very happy. In fact, I got the sense he was livid.
When I was watching the playoff, it occurred to me that this could be a little preview of match at the Ryder Cup (should have emphasized that more in my story). I’m pretty sure 99.9% of the gallery was pulling for Bubba — partly because the Wisconsinites didn’t seem to know much about Kaymer.
Even though I never heard anyone yell, “Yeah, Kaymer!” the fans were still respectful and applauded loudly when deserved. As Kaymer and Watson walked toward the green, the crowded chanted, “USA, USA!” With the Ryder Cup being a subplot this week, perhaps this was a little preview of what’s to come in October.