Monday 26 September 2016

Johnson saves USGA from even greater embarrassment

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Dustin Johnson. Photo: Getty
Dustin Johnson. Photo: Getty

Dustin Johnson spared the USGA's blushes by staying well clear of the field in the final round of the US Open, thereby negating the effect of a one-shot penalty imposed after he finished.

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An official 69 for four-under-par 276 still left Johnson three shots clear of his nearest challengers, Shane Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy.

But what a mess the officials made of first clearing Johnson of a Rules infraction when his ball moved on the fifth green, and seven holes later, telling him they might dock him a shot when he had completed the round.

The players in contention did not know where they stood; Johnson did not know what might happen.

Johnson, a serial choker in Majors up to now, stayed calm and kept his focus on the job at hand.

"I still didn't want the penalty. I didn't think that I did anything to cause the ball to move, but at the end of the day, it didn't affect what happened.

"So it doesn't bother me at all," he said after the trophy presentation.

Criticised

Not surprisingly, the USGA has been criticised by top players including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Ernie Els and Jason Day.

The penalty was imposed under Rule 18-2b, "Ball at rest moved".

Jeff Hall, USGA managing director of rules and competition, said: "In Dustin's case, he did ground his putter near the ball on two occasions, and it was immediately after - or shortly after, excuse me - he grounded his putter the second time that the ball moved.

"In weighing the evidence, the interpretation of this rule tells us it's not free of doubt.

"It's not going to be 100pc clear, yes, the player caused the ball to move, but that's not the standard we're dealing with.

"We're dealing with the standard - what is the cause of the ball's movement?

"As a committee, when we removed the tape, we looked at it and said, given the timing of his actions and the ball moved, it was more likely than not that Dustin was the cause of the movement."

Luckily, it's only a debate now.

Irish Independent

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