Sympathy but no more for Johnson

Golf referee says Dustin Johnson should have checked the rules before crucial PGA error.

    Johnson has his error explained as he misses a playoff chance in the final round [AFP]

    Dustin Johnson's two-stroke penalty on the final hole of the US PGA Championship has served as a timely reminder that players should always get to know local rules, a European Tour official said.

    American Johnson, one ahead playing the last at Whistling Straits on Sunday, was penalised two shots for grounding his club in a bunker to the right of the fairway, an infringement that cost him a place in a playoff for the title.

    Johnson said afterwards that he thought the sandy patch of scrub was just an area that had been trampled down by spectators, and wasn’t classed as a bunker.

    "We all feel sympathy for him but it was clear-cut from what I saw on  television," European Tour chief referee John Paramor told the Reuters news agency on Monday after officiating at the tournament in Kohler, Wisconsin.

    "I had finished duty when I looked at the television and I thought: 'He's grounded his club in a bunker.' I just couldn't believe it.

    "And you can't suddenly bring emotion into it, bearing in mind his position in the tournament. He's just like the guy who tees off at the first and grounds his club in a bunker in the first round. It's exactly the same, it's the same penalty."

    Caught in a trap

    Johnson said on television afterwards: "It never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap.
    "I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down.

    "Obviously I know the rules of golf and I can't ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess.

    "Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder."

    Johnson finished the 72 regulation holes in a three-way tie with compatriot Bubba Watson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer of Germany at 11-under par 277 but was relegated to joint fifth after a television review confirmed the infringement.

    "We contact everyone on the first tee on day one. Every player is given a local rules sheet and if it's something particularly important we also display it in prominent places because we know an awful lot of them don't read that sheet," Paramor said.

    Officials may be relieved that Johnson missed a putt on the final green that would have seemingly clinched overall victory rather than a playoff spot – only to have disastrous news whispered in his ear during celebration.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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