Sports Outside the Beltway

Breakdowns- Martin Kaymer wins the PGA Championship

The German golfer made a 18 to 24-inch putt for bogey on the third playoff hole to defeat Bubba Watson. This was Kaymer’s first ever victory in the United States.

Before Kaymer’s win today, he had six career wins on the European circuit and two top ten finishes in major championships. His win wasn’t something out of the blue. A lot of people would have had him in their top 50 picks or even top 25 this week.

What will have people talking about this PGA won’t be Kaymer’s win but what happened to Dustin Johnson at the 72nd hole. Johnson was -12 for the tournament and one shot ahead of Kaymer and Watson when he hit his final tee shot.

Johnson, a long and wild driver, hit his tee shot into the gallery to the right of the fairway. His ball ended up on a sandy piece of ground where members of the gallery had been walking all week instead of in the deep rough. He played his 2nd shot and eventually missed a seven-foot par putt. A three-way looked to be in the making.

But not so fast.

The sandy piece of ground was actually a bunker and while preparing to hit his 2nd shot, Dustin Johnson grounded his club in the bunker. That’s a two-stroke penalty.

Here’s the local rule or supplementary rules in question. These were posted in the clubhouse and player’s locker room-

1. Bunkers: All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.

Note 1: The sand area in front, left and behind No. 5 green in the later water hazard is NOT a bunker (do not move stones).

Note 2: Where necessary, blue dots define the margin of a bunker.

The sand area wasn’t raked and had footprints in it.

After his round was over, Johnson conferred with rules officials. He was assessed a two-stroke penalty and fell from a tie for first to tie for 5th.

2010 has been a heartbreaking year for Johnson. He led the U.S. Open going into the final round before shooting a final round 82. Will he be able to mentally recover from his two disasters. Off the top of my head the last time a golfer had these kind of chances to win a major in one year and come up dramatically short twice, is Mike Reid in 1989. Radar never won another PGA Tour event after nearly winning the 89 Masters and PGA Championship.

The bunker Johnson hit it into has already been labeled ‘Dustin’s Dustbin’ by Jason Sobel of ESPN. Today’s 18th hole finish has also been compared to Robert DeVicenzo’s incorrect scorecard signing at the 1968 Masters. A golf historian like myself, will also recall Jackie Pung being disqualified at the 1957 U.S. Women’s Open after signing for an incorrect score. Otherwise Pung would have won.

How about Mark Roe’s disqualification at the 2003 British Open? It happened after the 3rd round after he and his playing partner Jesper Parnevik signed for the right scores but on the wrong scorecards. If not for the DQ, Roe would have opened the final round two or three* out of the lead.

My opinion- Johnson broke the rule inadvertently, but the penalty is legitimate. A player needs to be aware of where he is on the golf course. What happened is unfortunate, but the rule about grounding clubs in a hazard has a purpose. Bunkers and water are there to penalize a golfer either with a penalty or a more difficult shot than if he had placed it on the fairway or green.

A couple of people think Johnson got screwed. First Jason Sobel writes-

What I hate about this is the inconsistency of it. If Johnson had the same situation take place on his third hole of the second round, chances are no cameras would have picked it up and/or cared, so DJ would have unknowingly kept going without assessing himself a stroke.

It’s not fair. It’s just not.

No Jason it would have been unfair if Johnson got away with a rules violation and went on to win the tournament. He broke the rule. Do you understand the concepts of integrity and honesty?

Ryan at Waggleroom screams in a headline that Johnson got screwed. I already said he didn’t but will take aim at something else that blogger wrote-

Where were the blue dots for Dustin Johnson? There didn’t appear any on TV.

Oh Ryan they were probably wiped out by all the people in the gallery who walked through the area. Every golfer in the field had to play without the dots, not just Johnson.

Other notes-

Bubba Watson played the final playoff hole disastrously but almost got away with it. He hit his 2nd shot in the water, then his next(and 4th) shot in the sand trap. Needing a miracle bogey holeout from the bunker, Watson nearly got it. His blast hit the flagstick but didn’t go in the hole.

1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington pulled into a tie for the lead but played the last two holes bogey-bogey to finish tied with Dustin Johnson and Jason Duffner for 5th. Elk who is 47 years old and hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 1999, comes up with strong PGA finishes even if he doesn’t do much else in that particular year. Like in 2005 when he finished second to Phil Mickelson.

Nick Watney had a three shot lead going into today before shooting a final round 81. He made double bogey on the opening hole and never recovered.

Zach Johnson and Rory Mcilroy also had legit chances to win today. The finale of this year’s PGA reminded me some of the 1996 version when 3rd round leader Russ Cochran also came apart on Sunday and at least six people(Steve Elkington being one of them.) had legit chances to win it on the back nine. That year’s tournament went to a playoff, which was won by Mark Brooks over Kenny Perry. Like Bubba Watson, Perry butchered the 18th hole in the playoff.

As Bubba Watson putted for birdie on the 2nd playoff hole, CBS had its on screen log right over where the hole was. I really hate obstructions placed on the screen by broadcasters when live sports action is taking place.

*- I’ve read conflicting reports about how close Roe was to the lead after 54 holes. The article I link to says three shots, but I’ve found another that said two.

Update- Here’s a video of Johnson’s golf ball in the sand.

Two interesting things

1 An official is standing near the golf ball when the video starts. Where did they go as Johnson went about playing the shot like it wasn’t in a bunker? Mark Wilson of the PGA explains what happened, including who the official was. I still hold to the opinion Johnson was at fault for not being aware. He had ample opportunity to know the rules, and to ask for a ruling if he was unsure.

2 CBS Announncer describes the location as being in one of ‘those thousand plus bunkers’. Nantz and company then got amnesia after Johnson played his shot and stayed that way as the ruling was made.

former USGA Executive Director, Frank Hannigan is very critical of CBS-

Another sin on CBS was not having a bona fide rules official in the booth to speak for the committee immediately. The USGA has the now familiar bow-tied image of its David Fay in the main TV booth. Had the Johnson sadness happened at a US Open the world would have known about it instantly. Moreover, in the USGA mode of operations Fay might very well have interceded by warning a rules official on the spot by radio that Johnson should be warned he is in a bunker.

Nick Faldo hemmed and hawed, not willing to tell Nantz, Feherty and Co. to get on with it. I saw Faldo win six majors. I have no doubt that in the same position Faldo would have sought out an official and asked “What is this thing I am standing in?”

The stakes were high and Johnson didn’t ask for help. It is his own darn fault.

Hat tip- Geoff Shackelford

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