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Rules violation costs Dustin Johnson spot in playoff at PGA Championship

Dustin Johnson hits his second shot on the 18th hole from what turned out to be a bunker. He had to take a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club before the shot and missed the playoff.

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Dustin Johnson hits his second shot on the 18th hole from what turned out to be a bunker. He had to take a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club before the shot and missed the playoff.

Rule on bunkers at Whistling Straits

An excerpt from the "Supplementary Rules of Play" that was posted in the locker room at Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship:

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.

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Dustin Johnson turned his pencil upside down and began erasing his scorecard.

He already had given one major championship away. He never got a chance to finish this one.

Johnson was knocked out of Sunday's playoff at the PGA Championship after he was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker he didn't realize existed. Instead of 1-under 71 to join Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson in the three-hole playoff, he changed his score from 5 to 7 and signed for 73 to tie for fifth at 9-under 279.

"I don't know if I can describe it," Johnson said. "If it was up to me, I wouldn't have thought I was in a bunker. But it's not up to me."

It was the cruelest ruling at a major since Roberto de Vicenzo accidentally signed for a higher score at the 1968 Masters and the victory went to Bob Goalby.

And it was another major heartbreak for Johnson.

The 26-year-old was the third-round leader at the U.S. Open in June, only to have a Sunday meltdown and shoot 82. It was the highest score in the Open by a 54-hole leader since Fred McLeod shot 83 at Chicago Golf Club in 1911. And it was Johnson's worst score as a pro.

He insisted he wouldn't let the collapse linger, and Pebble Beach seemed the furthest thing from his mind at Whistling Straits. When he curled in a 12-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th, he was the outright leader.

But his tee shot on 18 sailed into the gallery lining the right side of the fairway, landing in a small patch of sand that had been walked on, kicked and trampled by thousands of fans during the past week.

"Walking up and seeing the shot, never once did it cross my mind it was in a sand trap," Johnson said. "I just thought it was on a piece of dirt the crowd had trampled down. … I looked at it a lot, never once thought it was a bunker."

Whistling Straits is designed to mimic an old-style links course, with more bunkers than you can count. The PGA of America decided in 2004 that every bunker is a hazard, and players were reminded of it with a notice in the locker room.

"That might mean many areas outside the ropes that might contain many footprints, heel prints or even tire tracks from golf cars or other vehicles," said Mark Wilson, co-chairman of the rules committee.

Johnson never read the notice. Neither did many others.

"Honestly, I don't think anyone reads the sheets," playing partner Nick Watney said. "I mean, we've played in hundreds of tournaments; we get a sheet every week."

Unaware he was in a bunker, Johnson grounded his 4-iron before hitting toward the green. He missed a par putt that would have given him the victory and immediately turned his attention to the playoff with Watson and Kaymer.

But as he and Watney walked off the green, he was approached by rules official David Price. There was a problem, Price told them: Johnson might have grounded his club in a bunker.

"What bunker?" was Johnson's reaction.

Given the details, Johnson said he had grounded his club.

"But I never thought it was in a bunker," he said.

Johnson was composed when he spoke to the media in the clubhouse, never blaming officials. Or even questioning them. He had violated a rule, no matter if he didn't realize it.

"The only worse thing that could have happened was if I had made the putt on that last hole," Johnson said.

Appleby's rant

In the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits, Stuart Appleby fell victim to the same bunker rules that cost Dustin Johnson on Sunday. Appleby, who was assessed a four-shot penalty in 2004, ripped into the Wisconsin course and its rules on his Twitter feed after this tournament:

"Every bunker is listed in the rules last week to be played as normal bunkers and the normal rules apply (aka don't ground club)

I'm very … angered that this is way the 2010 PGA came to an end.

I think that they need to make significant changes to the course that has hundreds of pointless bunkers that patrons have to walk through to view players.

The PGA says that their a part of the game and to be treated as hazards.

Never seen patrons walking through bunkers in any other professional event (world wide) try that at Augusta.

We go back there in 2015 I hear.

What's the next sad story to unfold in Wisconsin?

Stay tuned in 5 years time … "


Rules violation costs Dustin Johnson spot in playoff at PGA Championship 08/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 16, 2010 12:27am]
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