The 116th U.S. Open wrapped up this past Father’s Day and again the USGA could not help but insert their organization into the story of golf, overshadowing the champion. Oakmont Country Club was magnificant. The golf course was a fair but very challenging test for the best players in the world and we saw one of the best, Dustin Johnson, claim his first of many major championships.
The event was met with heavy rain on Wednesday night and three weather delays on Thursday. The USGA did a great job of getting the event completed on schedule; however, that’s where the USGA great job ended. The governing body for the Rules of Golf decided to flex their pompous muscle and apparently use whatever means necessary to make them look like the supreme commander of all that is golf.
Everything was going very well until Sunday on the 5th green of Dustin Johnson’s final round, where a new storm was on the horizon. He had marked and picked up his ball from the green, as he had done thousands of times before. When it was his turn to putt, he replaced his ball on the green from where he marked and lifted it previously, again as he had done thousands of times previously and went about his preshot putting routine, as he had done thousands of times before. However, on this occasion, as he was getting ready to putt…his ball moved. This had not happened a thousand times before. Dustin saw his ball move and immediately called the rules official over to explain what had happened. The rules official, whom by the way was the Chairman of the Rules for the USGA, was with the group as referee. He asked Dustin what happened and Dustin explained what happened. He specifically asked Dustin if he made the ball move and Dustin responded, “No”. After hearing Dustin’s responses, the official ruled no penalty and play the ball as it lies. Done deal right? Nope. Two hours later on the 12th tee, a USGA official walks up to Dustin and says what happened at the 5th hole will be reviewed at the end of the round to determine if a penalty is to be assessed. In case you don’t know, “review after the round” is “speak” for you will be penalized. What does Dustin do? He shrugs it off. He did not feel he had done anything wrong; Lee Westwood, his fellow competitor in the group, did not feel he made the ball move and the referee had given the ruling. Why have a rules official with each group if their ruling is not final? Why did it take two hours before saying something to Dustin? Why is the USGA questioning the integrity of Dustin, Lee Westwood and the Rules Official with the group? All great questions that the USGA officials, when answering questions from the media to clear this up, dug themselves into a deeper hole. It was a joke as they tap danced. Dustin was not to be denied victory because of a ruling this time, staying laser focused and sticking it within three feet of the hole on his 72nd hole to go 5 under par and win by four shots. Take that USGA! Not that it mattered, but the USGA said there was a 51% chance that Dustin made his ball move and will incur a one stroke penalty to finish 4 under par for the event. The bottomline is this was handled so poorly by the USGA and they looked quite foolish from the new President all the way through the entire organization. Pitiful.
Dustin Johnson showed more intestinal fortitude to survive the ineptness of the USGA. He has knocked on the “major door” several times over the past five years and was denied each time. Not this week. This was supposed to be a shining moment of golf for 2016, instead the tournament got a black eye… again this year. Maybe it is time for an amateur association to get out of running professional golf events.
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