Nightmare Scenario

By Rex HoggardAugust 18, 2010, 10:31 pm

“If you need someone to blame throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”

-Bono

In the hectic hours following Dustin Johnson’s major miscue at Whistling Straits, the media searched doggedly for a scapegoat while the PGA of America likely strained a rib muscle trying to find a fix for an utterly unfixable situation.

Neither party was successful.

The blame game started with David Price, the walking scorer with Johnson’s group on Sunday who was strangely absent from the proceedings considering the gravity of the situation and the looming possibility that one of Whistling Straits’ 1,200 or so bunkers would mar an otherwise memorable championship.

“You’ve got to say something to him,” said Jim Duncan, a veteran PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour rules official. “If I was a walking official I would have said on the first tee, guys please use caution and ask me.”

Not that Duncan has any interest in Monday morning officiating. Far from it, in fact he calls Price one of the best rules officials in the business. Duncan’s observation is more of a warning than a judgment.

Those who want to criticize Price or the PGA are oversimplifying, or worse overanalyzing.

dustin johnson whistling straits pga
Dustin Johnson hits what turned out to be his fourth shot on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
“Of course I would have said something,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competitions. “But a lot of times I would have been up trying to clear the crowds, you can’t always be there. It’s like a nightmare scenario. None of this is good for the Rules of Golf.”

Those who say the fix is simple – just make anything inside the ropes a hazard, as defined by the Rules of Golf, and everything outside a waste area – have not spent enough time studying the rule book.

“We did everything the PGA did (for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits),” said Davis, who met with his PGA counterpart Kerry Haigh before the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits and agreed that all 1,200 of Pete Dye’s pits should be played as hazards. “Every bunker was treated as a bunker, as it should be.”

The inside/outside the ropes delineation won’t work for numerous reasons. What if a rope line crosses through a bunker? Or if a rope is moved before a player gets to his golf ball? In Rules of Golf speak this would be considered a “broken arrow” option, unquantifiable and unworkable.

“You are opening a can of worms doing something other than what they did this year,” Duncan said.

Ultimately, it was Johnson who made the mistake, however innocently, and to his youthful credit he never tried to water that reality down. But that does little to assure this doesn’t happen in 2015 when the PGA Championship returns to the converted Wisconsin pasture.

The blame game may soothe our manic souls and calm a collective nausea, but is a blatant waste of energy. This is not a Dustin Johnson problem or a Rules of Golf problem or a PGA of America problem.

If you want to blame someone go after Pete Dye, the architectural sadist in grandfather’s clothing. He created the faux links land, with the blessing of golf Herb Kohler, and all those sandy blemishes on an otherwise enchanting seascape.

They have towering dunes on Ireland’s greatest golf courses, they just don’t dot them with ornamental and problem-causing bunkers. Nor do they pack them with 40,000 fans during a major championship.

But then even Dye gets a partial pass considering that Whistling Straits is not entirely unique in its propensity for sandy question marks. Duncan pointed out that Kiawah Island in South Carolina – site of the 2012 PGA and another Dye design, by the way – is canvassed with bunkers that are even less defined than those at Whistling Straits.

When we reached Davis on Wednesday he was preparing for next week’s U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., the site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

“We have an even more complicated issue with all the sand,” said Davis, who was watching Sunday’s PGA and nearly texted Haigh when he saw the infraction. “We have these sandy areas that just sort of transition to bunkers.”

There are, essentially, only two ways to be sure Johnson the proper noun doesn’t become Johnson a verb – as in he Johnson’ed his second shot and lost the tournament: Remove Whistling  Straits from the major rota, which would get our vote, or let grass grow over all those largely ornamental sand pits that simply welcome this kind of confusion.

“This is not a Rules of Golf issue, it is an issue that deals with the architecture of Whistling Straits,” Davis said. “It’s just a very unique golf course that when you put it under big tournament conditions it is a very demanding situation.”

On Sunday amid the muted celebration of Martin Kaymer’s celebration neither Kohler nor Dye had any interest in cleaning up the sandy clutter that led to heartbreak for Johnson and heartache for the PGA of America.

“It’s what should have happened,” Kohler said.

A few days before the PGA Championship we had a chance to speak with Kohler about the evolution of his lakeside gem and reflect on the ’04 championship. One comment, given Sunday’s drama, drove us back to the notebook.

“(Haigh’s) comfort level grew dramatically from the first day to the last day in 2004,” Kohler said.

We have to wonder, how comfortable is Haigh now?

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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