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Wyndham Players React to Johnsons PGA Blunder

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brad Faxon’s pro-am group wandered into the left rough at Sedgefield Country Club to line up their second shot into the 18th hole. The ball was on a patch of brown, burnt grass.

“Do we get relief from this?” cracked one of the amateurs.

In golf, it’s all Dustin Johnson all the time. Everyone’s buzzing about it.

“One-hundred percent the PGA of America is at fault,” said Tom Pernice, Jr. “They did a poor job of crowd control.”

Jonathan Byrd said, “As a player I’m sitting there watching and saying ‘that’s a waste bunker, there’s no way that’s not a waste bunker.’ Sounds like they did everything they could to make everyone aware that everything’s a bunker. I’m just so glad he didn’t make that putt.”

When is the last time you heard someone say they’re pleased someone didn’t make a putt to win a major?

“Golf’s not always fair,” Byrd added. “The PGA of America did everything right. A lot of times golf just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair to penalize a guy two shots for that. It doesn’t seem like he gained any advantage. I remember once in Canada getting penalized two shots in a bunker and went from third to 11th.  It didn’t seem fair but those are the rules of golf.”

But is it a good rule? Brian Sullivan, caddie for Matt Goggin, said that if a rule is so awkward that it requires notices to be posted everywhere, it should be an indicator that it’s a poor rule and that it could cause problems.

“On the rules sheet they never said there might be people in the bunker,” Sullivan said. “It didn’t address that at all. To me that’s the most challenging part of it. As a player you never encounter a bunker with people in it.”

On the subject of the walking official, one player said, “At the U.S. Open the officials were actually further away to give us breathing room. Players should know the rules and if we need someone we know that they’re around. But we don’t want the officials hovering.

“In hindsight it does seem it sure would have been a lot better if that official had been right there and let Dustin know of his options, to be aware of this or that. I also think that all the responsibility does not fall on the official. It falls on Dustin and his caddie.”

According to a Sunday report by Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, an unnamed PGA Tour official said that in murky situations like that they do everything they can to let the player know the options, even though they’re not mandated to do so.

In any sport good officials use discretion at the appropriate time. One player made this comparison:

“It’s like a critical playoff game in basketball,” he explained. “Before handing the ball to the player on an inbounds underneath the basket he might say, ‘stand still you can’t run the baseline here.’ ”

The PGA of America official, David Price, is highly regarded throughout the game. He’s the head professional at Bent Tree in Dallas. He said, “Now that I know Dustin didn’t read the rules, you’re damn right I should’ve said something.”

And there’s the rub. Dustin didn’t read the rules, or at least not closely. Even if – as so many people have said – it’s a bad rule, it’s still a rule.

“As much as we were pulling for Dustin,” said one player, “we know we as players are responsible for what happens. You definitely want to check.

“But Dustin handled it so well.”