Wednesday 20 February 2019

Johnson rules as Garcia sees red on the greens

Dustin Johnson celebrates with the trophy after his Saudi International victory Photo: Getty Images
Dustin Johnson celebrates with the trophy after his Saudi International victory Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Dustin Johnson's simple approach to the game paid off with victory in the Saudi International as golf's rules and etiquette were plunged into controversy on opposite sides of the globe.

The R&A and the USGA agreed that it must clarify the interpretation of Rule 10.2b(4) after allowing the PGA Tour to rescind a two-shot penalty handed to Denny McCarthy at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

As the game digested the news that the simplified rules are still too complex, the European Tour's CEO Keith Pelley insisted that Sergio Garcia would receive no further punishment, despite his disqualification for "serious misconduct" after he damaged several greens during the third round of the Tour's controversial first event in Saudi Arabia.

Frustrated

The news of Garcia's free pass emerged shortly after the laconic Johnson closed with a three-under 67 to Haotong Li's 69 to win his 20th professional title by two strokes from the Chinese star on 19-under.

Garcia was frustrated by the grainy 'Paspalum Dynasty' putting surfaces and left what were described as "scuff marks" and "a divot hole" on several greens at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, resulting in his disqualification.

"The incident is over," Pelley told The Scotsman yesterday. "We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologised to the players and we move on."

While there was no mention of an apology to the hosts by a player who is no stranger to controversy, players receiving an apology included England's Robert Rock, who was playing two groups behind the fiery Spaniard.

"Like everyone else, I did not know who it was," Rock said. "I wasn't sure if it was one person or more people. I have spoken to Sergio about it. He faced up to it, and we are fine. Everyone makes a mistake at some point."

As for the event, Johnson impressively pulled away on the back nine as Greystones' Paul Dunne tied for 51st on one-under after a two-over 72.

Li chipped in for birdie at the ninth to head the American by one stroke, but after both bogeyed the 10th, Johnson birdied the 11th and 12th, then got up and down from 154 yards for bogey at the testing par-three 16th having pulled his tee shot into the Red Sea.

With his lead down to one stroke, he coolly birdied the 17th and 18th to win by two from Li, who was penalised two strokes under Rule 10.2b(4) in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last week.

Designed to stop caddies helping players with their alignment, the rule states that caddies must not "deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason as a player begins taking his stance.

McCarthy's two-shot penalty was rescinded by the PGA Tour after both the R&A and the USGA reviewed video footage of this and other incidents.

The American had hit his second shot in the water at the par-5 15th hole in round two and was penalised two shots as his caddie was behind him as he took practice swings awaiting his turn to hit, provoking outraged posts from players, including Justin Thomas, on social media.

Both governing bodies agreed after a review of video evidence that "the penalty would not apply in this instance nor in a similar instance involving Justin Thomas".

Irish Independent

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