By Kevin Kietzman
It’s time for the people that think they know so much about the great game of golf to realize they know nothing about what’s good for the game.
Dustin Johnson was a great U.S. Open champion Sunday after blistering Oakmont, PA Country Club with an array of 350-yard drives, guided missile 6 irons into greens and just enough putting to put everyone away. DJ’s internet sensation wife, Paulina, and his kid made for a perfect little Father’s Day setting at America’s most important golf tourney.
But the USGA just had to ruin the fun.
On the 5th hole as Johnson was just about to putt his ball (but hadn’t set his putter head on the ground behind the ball), the ball moved backwards just a smidge. Johnson backed away and called a rules official over and reported it. He was the only person on earth that saw it live as it happened. Replay cameras caught it, sure. And his playing partner, Lee Westwood, walked over to talk about it too. All three men agreed it should not be a penalty. Heck, on what planet and what sport is something like that even considered a penalty?
An hour and a half later, the USGA decided to tell all the players near the top of the leaderboard that there “may” be a one shot penalty assessed at the end of the round to Johnson’s score. Immediately, this insane decision to not make a decision yet tell the players, altered what everyone was thinking.
In the end, Johnson won by 4 shots. So the USGA went ahead and penalized him a stroke - but he still won. It was one of the most gutless, ridiculous rulings I’ve ever seen in any sport. It made soccer rulings look sane.
The point of all this? Well, the rules of golf are written for a reason. Don’t cheat people you’re competing against, especially when they are not in your playing group. But golf at the highest level is a completely different animal. Every shot of every leader is televised in HD. Nobody is trying to cheat anyone. Ever. You couldn’t even if you wanted.
The USGA and Royal and Ancient rules of golf should be a nice guideline for “tournament rules of play”. You see, 5th graders can’t spike a football in the end zone and dance but the pros can. My friend may gain an advantage on me by not knowing the rules of golf and I may not like it and maybe we can use it to learn more about fair and unfair. But not the U.S. Open. There is no way they assess that penalty if Johnson wins by one or if he’s tied at the end of regulation. That made it even worse. They were afraid to call it and only did after they knew it wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Scrap the rules of golf guys and put it all in the hands of playing partners and on course officials. Use replay if you want. But only rule on two things: 1) Did a player gain an unfair advantage with intent to do so? 2) Did a player gain an unfair advantage because he broke a rule he didn’t know?
It’s that simple. When Dustin Johnson broke a rule by grounding his club in a bunker at the PGA Championship, he gained no advantage. He should have known the rule and shouldn’t have grounded his club. But he gained no advantage and it shouldn’t have had any effect on the outcome of the tourney he lost. He would have won. What a shame.
These golf snobs running these tournaments don’t understand why golf has stopped growing without Tiger Woods. There’s a lot of reasons, but one of them is a real disconnect between the ancient, stupid, complicated rules of golf written by the ruling class and the millions of us who just want to play the game for fun and watch the pros for entertainment. The USGA has long lost its way in this regard.
Return to: Kevin's Take Blog