SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – En route to grabbing a share of the opening-round lead at the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson hit plenty of great shots and holed a number of clutch putts. But he also caught a pretty good break.
Johnson hit one of his few wayward shots of the day on the par-4 sixth hole, pulling his tee shot into the thick fescue rough that lines most of the fairways at Shinnecock Hills. What ensued was a full-blown search party, as USGA officials, media members and even playing competitor Tiger Woods got down and sifted through the long grass in search of Johnson’s ball.
It was finally found by 2002 PGA champion Rich Beem, working this week in a broadcast capacity for Sky Sports. But Beem only located Johnson’s ball by stepping on it, and after a discussion with a rules official that action enabled Johnson to get a free drop.
“Well, there was a guy standing there, they watched it bounce in there and he kind of just stood on the hill and waited for all of us to come up,” Johnson said. “You would think he would go and at least mark kind of the spot where it was.”
After taking relief from the spot where Beem stepped on his ball, Johnson hacked back into the fairway and ultimately made a bogey. But it was one of only three bogeys he made all day while joining a group of three other players at the top of the leaderboard following a 1-under 69.
Johnson went on to hole a bunker shot for birdie two holes later, and two years after winning his first major title at Oakmont he’s again in the mix on the biggest stage. But should the new world No. 1 still contend come Sunday, he doesn’t believe it will be because of Beem’s footprint.
“Probably should have never even had to come to that,” Johnson said. “Obviously it was nice for him to find my ball. Even though I did get to drop it, it was, you know, I still played the same kind of shot that I would have played if he wouldn’t have stepped on it.”