Monday, August 16, 2010

PGA of America blows the call

What a shame! The final major the year which had excitement equal to a seventh game of the World Series went down in flames with one bad call.

Now golf is an objective sport. There is very little subjectively to the rules of the game – at least that's what the rule makers would like to have us think. And they almost pull it off except for that little, 1200+ page volume they publish every time – The Decisions on the Rules of Golf. That volume puts every rule into subjectivity.

But when the PGA of America rules officials decided to assess Dustin Johnson with a two stroke penalty at the end of play yesterday and eliminate him from a playoff, they stuck by the objectivity of the rule. This particular rule being “the player is not allowed to ground his club in a hazard.” At this point they blew it – plain and simple.

No, they didn't blow the rule, they blew the call. Even Johnson said he knows the rule. But in their own defense the PGA will tell us they published a local rules sheet for the tournament stating that some of the 1,000,000+ bunkers at Whistling Straits may be outside the spectator ropes but they are still to be considered bunkers. Not a problem – if you can identify the area as a bunker. And herein lies the problem. It exists on two levels.

First, why in the world would the PGA allow spectator to tramp and tromp through bunkers that could be potentially in play. And I'm sorry, the argument about getting the spectators closer to the action is a cop out. Yes, and we heard that some of these bunkers were “cosmetic.” Please! If it's a “cosmetic” bunker, then don't treat it like a normal bunker. And as a corollary to this, if you can't identify a sandy patch as a bunker because it has been trampled by the hordes, then how on earth would you expect a player to identify it especially if he is on the last hole of a major championship needing a par to win?

Second, with a major championship on the line, why in the name of Old Tom Morris was there no PGA Rules Official right there with Johnson? And the argument here that the rules officials are not supposed to get involved falls flat. If a rules official had gotten involved, this whole major embarrassment would never have occurred. Having a rules official right on the spot to clarify any confusion would have a most satisfying gesture.

Even the experienced CBS sports crew had no idea.

The sad part of the whole incident is that the PGA could have taken charge of the situation and ruled no penalty simply because Johnson hardly knew he was in a bunker with all of the people standing around him and the fact that the bunker had been virtaully destroyed during the past seven days. The PGA could have done what was right. They chose not to.

Honestly this situation is akin to the building of a mosque near the sight of Ground Zero. Someone may have the right to build such a structure, but it is not the proper thing to do. The PGA had the right to assess the penalty on Johnson, but it was not the proper thing to do.

It's a sad day for the PGA of America.


Daniel said...

I bet the walking official had no Idea he was in a Bunker too as the Great people of Wisconsin did not know they were standing in a bunker. As the whole world watching did not know he was in a bunker. I wonder if they have a recording of the conversation of the PGA officials discussing the infraction? That would be worth hearing.

Anonymous said...

My problems also include:
1. The lack of marshalls clearing out the area. I only saw one marshall, and even Dustin Johnson had to ask photographers to "get out of the way". The lack of marshalls and security was obvious on this hole, but also many other holes as well
2. Are there sandy areas on the course that are not bunkers/hazards? Does anyone know? Unless every sand patch is a hazard (and I mean everyone), then it is wildly unrealistic to assume that a player or even rules official can determine what is a bunker and what is not.
3. The PGA of America blew it by not having foresight to deal with this type of problem. A simple one page memo given to the players in not nearly enough to avoid this PR nightmare.
4. When the 2015 PGA is back at Whistling Straits, I bet they clarify and mark out every bunker
5. You would never, never see Augusta National, USGA, or the Royal and Ancient blow a course set up and operations like the PGA of America did.