Oral history: DJ and the bunker at the 2010 PGA

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2015, 10:05 pm

There are those who cling to the Rules of Golf and dismiss Dustin Johnson’s miscue on the 72nd hole of the 2010 PGA Championship as little more than an awkward and unavoidable truth.

“It’s what should have happened,” said Herb Kohler, who built and owns Whistling Straits, when asked about the two-stroke penalty that cost Johnson a spot in the playoff at the ’10 championship.

Others, however, dismiss the letter of the law when remembering one of the most controversial finishes in major championship history.

“It was not then nor has it ever been a bunker,” said David Feherty, the on-course reporter for CBS Sports covering Johnson during the final round five years ago.

These are the facts:

Johnson began the final round at Whistling Straits, which will host this week’s PGA, three strokes behind Nick Watney and paired in the final group at a major championship for the second time that season (U.S. Open).

By the time Johnson arrived on the 72nd tee he’d just birdied his last two holes and led the field by a stroke when his drive on the hole – fittingly named Dyeabolical after Straits Course designer Pete Dye – sailed well right of the fairway and into a large crowd.

After finding his golf ball and having the gallery moved from his intended line, Johnson grounded his club not once, but twice in one of the Straits Course’s 1,000 bunkers (all of which were deemed hazards in a memo given to players at the beginning of the week).

He made bogey and thought he was heading to a playoff – which was eventually won by Martin Kaymer – but he was instead informed of a possible infraction.

After reviewing the tape in the scoring room, Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty and tied for fifth, two shots out of the playoff.

These are the stories from those who were closest to the action on Sunday at the 2010 PGA:


DUSTIN JOHNSON:

“[No.] 16 is a par 5, but I did make a birdie out of the hay on the left. I do remember that. I hit a 60-degree [wedge]. And then 17 is a tough par 3, and I think I made about a 20-footer (for birdie) on 17.

“I was just playing my shot (at No. 18). It wasn’t like, never once did I walk up and think that I was in a bunker. S*** happens. I mean, there was beer cans and s*** everywhere.”


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DAVID PRICE, walking rules official with the final group:

“We had dealt with bunkers on two of the previous five holes before we got to 18, and it was unique. It was a pretty good-sized bunker. But when you had all the people in there and certainly they were covering the back portion of the bunker. My biggest concern for Dustin was all these people hovering around. That’s one of the things I dislike the most, the galleries attempt to hover as close as they can to the player.

“At that point I didn’t think to tell him [he was in a bunker]. In my estimation there was no question he was in a bunker. I was standing there asking people to move back out of the bunker.

“I looked at him and asked if he was OK with everything, and he said he was OK. I asked him if there was anything he needed from me, and he said he needed me to go down and move some people about 30 yards down the fairway.

“I was surprised he hit the shot while I was still moving the gallery.

“On the 18th green I simply said, ‘Dustin there is speculation that you possibly touched the sand in the bunker back on your second shot.’ He just looked at me in kind of shock and said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think so. I don’t remember.’”


DAVID FEHERTY:

“I was the first one to get to the ball except for the crowd that was spreading beer bottles all around it. It was so not a bunker. It was entirely the wrong decision and one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in major championship history.

“I looked at it and didn’t look at it again and was thinking it was a pretty good lie.

“[Price] goes up to him after he putts out and I’m thinking, does he want an autograph? I had to get [Johnson] out of the shower to interview him. The whole thing was bizarre.

“I was in shock; I can’t imagine how poor Dustin felt. I felt sorry for him to have that yanked out from underneath him like that, it would have destroyed other players.”


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NICK WATNEY, third-round leader who was paired with Johnson on Sunday:

“I couldn’t see [Johnson on the 18th hole]. I had no idea where he was and didn’t think he had any issues once he found his ball. I was shooting a million so I wasn’t that worried anyway.

“I think I just assumed, even at Kiawah, when they said everything is a bunker I had a tough time grounding my club because your whole life you’re condition to not ground your club in the sand.

“[Price] came up to us on the 18th green and I thought I’d done something wrong because my day had gone so bad, and he said Dustin may have grounded his club. Dustin was caught off guard. He was like ‘Which hole?’

“Once he saw the tape and went through it in his head it was clear. In no way was he trying to gain an advantage. The rules official has to take some responsibility.”


ALLEN TERRELL, Johnson’s swing coach:

“I honestly never thought, watching it from the camera view, that he was in the bunker. I was aware of the local rule, and I think Dustin was, where everything was deemed a bunker. In that environment, as far right as he hit there, I don’t think it even processed that he was even in a bunker. He just thought he was on a big dune.

“Even if he would have read the rules on the 18th tee I’m still not sure he would have processed it considering where he was.

“I think he won a lot of fans that day. It was the first time the public got to see another side of Dustin and got a closer look at who he was and how he handled adversity.”

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.