August 19 — Dustin Johnson has moved on from his monumental bunker gaffe on the 72nd hole of last week’s PGA Championship, even if no one else has.
“It doesn’t bother me if people ask [if I’ve gotten over it],” Johnson told the Associated Press a day after his chances for a major title went up in dust. “I just don’t get why somebody wouldn’t believe me when I say I’m over it. You have to go forward. In every sport, you have to go forward.”
Moving on. Good for him. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah, how ‘bout those rules of golf?
In the wake of Johnson’s horrendous brain fart, everyone from touring pros to your cat-sitter who wouldn’t know a belly putter from a toaster has weighed in on that patch of trampled earth. (Upon further review, the ball was clearly in a bunker of sorts; why officials did not deem the spot a waste area and let thousands of spectators romp in the field of play remain issues of contention.)
Indeed, since the gut-wrenching moment when Johnson erased the 5 on his scorecard and penciled in a 7 (eliminating himself from the playoff in which Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson), there’s been non-stop buzz about what happened, why, and who was at fault.
There’s plenty of blame to go around:
- Officials could have alerted Johnson that he was in a bunker
- Marshals should have moved fans away, if not kept them out of the bunker in the first place
- Johnson’s caddie should have intervened
- Johnson himself should have read the the local-rules sheets hanging on mirrors and throughout the locker room
- Architect Pete Dye could have designed Whistling Straits with about 1,000 fewer bunkers or at least kept them inside the ropes
In the end, however, it’s up to the golfer to make the correct call, and Johnson conceded as much. “Rules are rules,” he said.
“Obviously, I know the rules very well. I just never thought I was in a bunker, or I would have never grounded my club,” noted Johnson. “Maybe walking up to the ball, if all those people hadn’t been there, maybe I would have recognized it as a sand trap. I knew there wasn’t any waste bunkers. But all the bunkers on the course had a darkish color to the sand. This was white dirt.”
No blame game. Still, Johnson pointed the finger at himself. “I’m not trying to blame anyone else,” he said. “It’s no one’s fault but mine.”
With all that in mind, the Rules of Golf are getting a good spanking from the punditry. Anyone who’s ever picked up a club can name 10 or 20 regs she or he would eliminate; hell, you all know hackers who’ve violated more than that in a single round.
Here are just a few prohibitions that this golf observer believes could go the way of persimmon golf sticks:
- Spike marks. Let players fix all blemishes on the greens. How many of your Sunday morning buddies are aware they may not tamp down spike marks or any imperfections other than ball marks — or know and don’t care? If you may fix ball marks, why not spike marks?
- Free drop from big feet. Allow players free drops in bunkers if their golf balls trickle (and they always do) into the tracks left by the size 16 FootJoys imprinted in the sand. Why should you be penalized because the jerk in front of you couldn’t be bothered to rake the trap?
- Relief from fairway divots. Same argument as above. Seriously, thanks to all those golfers (and you know who you are) who refuse to replace their Rhode Island-sized pelts. Why not just consider divots ground under repair (from which you get relief) and let players take drops?
- Penalty stroke. If it’s not a penalty stroke when the wind blows your ball off the tee even after you’ve addressed it, why is it one when the breezes move your Pro V1 anywhere else on the course? It’s either a foul or it’s not.
It’s not as if golf rules never change. It usually takes an act of Congress to make such modifications, but sometimes even the royals and ancients employ common sense.
Remember when officials disqualified Stewart Cink from a 2008 tourney for, essentially, “testing the condition of a bunker?” In a ruling even more bizarre than the one that deep-sixed Johnson, Cink hit a drive near a trap and had to stand down in it to hit his next shot. His caddie then raked the sand.
Gotcha! Turned out that Cink’s second shot landed in a green-side bunker. So, when Cink’s looper raked the first trap, officials determined the golfer had unfairly assessed the firmness and depth of the sand, a big no-no and a two-stroke penalty.
Cink, unaware he had violated a rule, signed his card, after which officials DQ’d him for attesting to the wrong score. (And all children under 16 years old, are now…16 years old. Made as much sense as Woody Allen’s “Bananas.”)
That canon, which the powers-that-be changed immediately (no doubt with visions of seven-hour rounds and, you know, the complete idiocy of the decree), required Cink to hit his third shot and have his caddie double back to the first bunker to rake that bunker. And Cink wasn’t even in the first hazard to begin with.
Surely, you have some ideas as to what you consider to be the most ludicrous rules in the game of golf. Leave a comment and tell us why.
Tiger Woods has been pretty much a non-factor since he returned to golf in April. Read how, despite his off- and on-course woes, Woods remains faithful to his long-time caddie Steve Williams.