Low Down Dirty Shame

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2010, 6:41 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Has golf ever felt more dirty than it did with the sun sinking over Whistling Straits Sunday near the end of the PGA Championship?

I mean literally dirty. Because the PGA Championship was decided in the dirt Sunday at Whistling Straits.

OK, technically, it was decided in the sand, but if you were among the more than 100,000 fans who walked over and around the hillocks and bunkers on this course, you know it’s hard to tell where the dirt begins and the sand ends. There are, after all, more than 1,000 bunkers sprawling through the wispy fescue grasses there.

If you are Dustin Johnson, it probably all seems like manure now.

Dustin Johnson
Rules official David Price talks to Dustin Johnson. (Getty Images)

Because the end of this PGA Championship stunk.

It’s fitting that Johnson marched to the locker room to take a shower before coming out to speak with media after one of golf’s quirky rules cost him a shot at the championship. While Johnson cleaned up nicely, the sport’s going to have a hard time washing out the stain this leaves. Because as accustomed as we’ve become to golf’s mysteriously complex rules affecting outcomes, this was different.

This was a local rules decision that rings as a loco rule now. That’s loco, as in crazier than a golf course allowing thousands of fans to sit in and walk through “bunkers” that are IN play.

Johnson was penalized two shots at the 72nd hole of the championship for grounding his club in a bunker that he didn’t know was a bunker.

And who could blame him for not knowing? Dozens of people were sitting in that “bunker” before his ball came to rest among them.

After finding his ball on the hillside and blowing his approach left of the 18th green, Johnson missed a 6-foot putt for par that he thought could have won him his first major championship. Victory would have been a sweet remedy for the pain he felt blowing the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open last June. His final-round 82 at Pebble Beach would be remembered differently with a victory at Whistling Straits. And, still, even after missing his putt for par Sunday, Johnson believed his bogey had earned him a spot in a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Johnson, 25, believed he still had his shot at redemption until rules official David Price stopped him as he left the green to explain that he might face a penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.

“Somebody that saw it on TV called in,” Price said after Johnson marched into the scoring office. “Hopefully, he didn’t do it.”

The scene was crazy outside the old stone clubhouse. CBS roving reporter Peter Kostis scrambled through some bushes to peer into the window to get a glimpse of Johnson and the rules officials as they reviewed the footage. A CBS cameraman was squeezed up to the window, too, beaming the images around the world. Dozens of reporters were jammed together behind Kostis trying to see what he was seeing.

And as all of this was unfolding, thousands of fans jammed along the 18th hole were chanting: “Let him play! . . . Let him play!”

Johnson, of course, wouldn’t get to play.

“I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” Johnson said later. “I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the Rules of Golf, and I can't ground my club in a bunker.”

This may be the most heart-wrenching application of golf’s rules since Roberto De Vicenzo lost the Masters because he signed for an incorrect scorecard.

Stumbling out of the scoring area at Augusta National in 1968, De Vicenzo uttered the famous line: “What a stupid I am.”

Johnson could have uttered a variation of that line. He could have said: “How stupid is golf?”

There will be debate about this, because players were clearly informed that all the sandy waste areas on the course were considered bunkers.

“We made it the No. 1 item on our local rules sheet, simply to explain that all of the bunkers that were designed and built as sand bunkers on this golf course would be played that way,” Mark Wilson, the co-chairman of the PGA rules committee, said. “And that might mean that many areas outside the ropes might contain many footprints, heel prints, or even tire tracks from golf cars or other vehicles.'

Wilson said a notice was also posted in the locker room cautioning players that all the sandy areas were bunkers.

“This is a unique course with unique characteristics and I think the dilemma is that it's even harder to say some of these are not bunkers and some of them are, because then how do you define those?” Wilson said. “And then a player would be essentially treading on thin ice almost every time he entered a sandy area, wondering where he was. And with 1,200 of them, there's no way to confirm with each player exactly where he lays.”

Wilson was eloquent in his explanation of the difficulty that would occur in trying to distinguish what is and isn’t a bunker on this course, but the fact of that matter is that the PGA was as confused as Johnson was when they first brought the major here in 2004. Originally, the PGA intended to differentiate between the bunkers inside the ropes and outside the ropes. The PGA considered treating those bunkers outside the ropes like waste areas. But officials changed their minds shortly before the championship.

“I don't know, if it was up to me, I wouldn't have thought I was in the bunker, but it's not up to me,” Johnson said.

That’s the whole point, though. If players can’t even tell they’re in a bunker, something’s wrong. If fans are walking and sitting in them, how can they be bunkers?

There is plenty of blame to go around for the unsatisfying ending. Johnson gets his share for admitting he did not read the local rule. For many, he loses their sympathy saying that. You wonder, though, even if he did, would he have known he was in a bunker.

Still, in a cruel way, it was fitting that this championship season should end with a deep discussion of dirt. It started that way with Tiger Woods the biggest story at the Masters and tabloids slinging dirt into the game’s biggest storyline.

This major championship starts the way it ended. It leaves you with the feeling you need a bath. 

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.



Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.

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Davies sweeps senior majors with Sr. LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second behind Inbee Park in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

''I wish there were more of them to play,'' Davies said about the two senior majors. ''This was a real treat because I've never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think 2 under par was a really good score.''


Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship


Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course. She birdied three of the four par 5s in the final round, making an 8-footer on No. 18.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Davies earned $90,000 for her 86th worldwide professional victory. She won four regular majors.

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For Korean women, golf is a double-edged sword

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2018, 10:30 pm

There is always a story behind the tears.

For In Gee Chun, it’s a story about more than her victory Sunday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

It’s about the other side of the Korean passion that runs so deep in women’s golf and that makes female players feel like rock stars.

It’s about the unrelenting pressure that comes with all that popularity.

Chun explained where her tears came from after her victory. She opened up about the emotional struggle she has faced trying to live up to the soaring expectations that come with being a young Korean superstar.

Her coach, Won Park, told GolfChannel.com on Wednesday that there were times over the last year that Chun wanted to “run and hide from golf.” The pressure on her to end a two-year victory drought was mounting in distressing fashion.

Chun, 24, burst onto the world stage when she was 20, winning the U.S. Women’s Open before she was even an LPGA member. When she won the Evian Championship two years later, she joined Korean icon Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA titles.

Following up on those victories was challenging, with Chun feeling as if nothing short of winning was good enough to satisfy Korean expectations.

After the victory at Evian, Chun recorded six second-place finishes, runner-up finishes that felt like failures with questions growing back home over why she wasn’t closing out.

“There were comments that were quite vicious, that were very hard to take as a person and as a woman,” Chun said. “I really wanted to rise above that and not care about those comments, but I have to say, some of them lingered in my mind, and they really pierced my heart.”

Chun struggled going from the hottest star in South Korea to feeling like a disappointment. She slipped from No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings to No. 27 going into last week’s KEB Hana Bank Championship. Maybe more significantly, she slipped from being the highest ranked Korean in the world to where she wasn’t even among the top 10 Koreans anymore.

“Some fans and the Korean golf media were hard on her, mostly on social media,” Park wrote GolfChannel.com in an email. “It caused her to start struggling with huge depression and socio phobia. She often wished to run away from golf and hide herself where there was no golf at all.”


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


Socio phobia includes the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others, according to the Mayo Clinic’s definition of conditions.

Though critics of South Korea’s dominance have complained about the machine-like nature of some those country’s stars, we’ve seen quite a bit of emotion from South Koreans on big stages this year.

After Sung Hyun Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in July, the world No. 1 with the steely stare uncharacteristically broke into tears.

“This is the first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said back then. “It’s been a really tough year for me.”

It was the second of her three victories this season, a year in which she also has missed seven cuts.

“A lot of pressure builds up,” said David Jones, her caddie. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.”

While American players admire the massive popularity Koreans enjoy in their homeland, they see what comes with it.

“Koreans really do elevate their women players, but at the same time, they put a ton of pressure on them,” American Cristie Kerr said. “There’s pressure on them to not only be good, but to be attractive, and to do the right things culturally.”

So Yeon Ryu felt the pressure to perform build as high as she has ever felt with Koreans trying to qualify for the Olympics two years ago. The competition to make the four-woman team was intense, with so many strong Koreans in the running.

“This just makes me crazy,” Ryu said back then. “The biggest thing is the Korean media. If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. But if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Ryu didn’t make that team, but she went on to share LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors with Sung Hyun Park last year. She also won her second major championship and ascended to world No. 1.

LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park was under fire going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was coming back from injury and there was growing criticism of her. She was hearing clamor to give up her spot to a healthy player, but she went on to win the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” said Na Yeon Choi, a nine-time LPGA winner who was doing analysis for Korean TV. “Inbee had so much pressure on her.”

After the Koreans won the UL International Crown two weeks ago, there was as much relief as joy in their ranks. Though viewed as the dominant force in women’s golf, they watched the Spaniards crowned as the “best golfing nation” in the inaugural matches in 2014 and then watched the Americans gain the honor in 2016. There was pressure on the Koreans to win the crown at home.

“There were some top Koreans who didn’t want to play, because there was going to be so much pressure,” Kerr said.

Chun got the nod to join the team this year after Inbee Park announced she was stepping aside, to allow another Korean a chance to represent their country. Chun was the third alternate, with Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko saying they were passing to honor previous KLPGA commitments.

Chun went on to become the star of the UL International Crown. She was undefeated, the only player to go 4-0 in the matches.

“In Gee made up her mind to devote herself to the team and played with an extremely high level of passion and focus,” Won Park wrote in an email interview. “She took the International Crown as a war in her heart. She did not play, but she `fought’ against the course, not against the opposing team . . . During all four winning matches, she gradually found her burning passion deep in her heart and wanted to carry it to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank.”

Park explained he has been working with Chun to change her focus, to get her to play for herself, instead of all the outside forces she was feeling pressure to please.

“She was too depressed to listen for a year and a half,” Park wrote.

So that’s where all Chun’s tears came from after she won the KEB Hana Bank.

“All the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up,” Chun said.

Park said Chun’s focus remains a work in progress.

“Although it will take some more time to fully recover from her mental struggle, she at least got her wisdom and confidence back and belief in her own game,” Park wrote. “This is never going to be easy for a 24-year-old young girl, but I believe she will continue to fight through.”