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PGA Championship- Wrap 2010Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010, at 8:19 AM
The PGA Championship Rules Committee meeting was a pretty routine exercise on Wednesday of last week at Whistling Straits. The meeting started promptly at 7:30 a.m. and the 90 PGA rules committee members from all over the world listened attentively as Mark Wilson, PGA Rules Chairman, addressed his staff.
PGA officers attend these meetings, primarily to get the last minute instructions on announcing. My job was to announce the final five groups on the No. 1 tee during Saturday's third round of play. I will have to admit that when I realize I have no primary rules function, it is easy to let the mind wander during these gatherings, at least until that second cup of coffee kicks in.
That being said, I do clearly remember our rules chairman emphasizing Rule 1 on the Supplementary Rules of Play Sheet, commonly known as the "local rules sheet." Wilson told everyone that Whistling Straits had over 1,200 bunkers around the course and this rule was put in place to "leave no question as to the procedure if a player's ball came to rest in a bunker."
Let me quote you Rule 1 as it appeared last week: "Bunkers : All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions."
Players were given the Rules Sheet on the first tee Thursday and it was posted in several different places in the competitor's locker room. This being said, it was still an unfortunate set of circumstances that befell Dustin Johnson on Sunday afternoon at The Straits. By now, all golfers know that Johnson was assessed a two stroke penalty for grounding his club after making a bogey on the 72nd hole of play and presumably earning a spot in the PGA Championship playoff with Bubba Watson and Marten Kaymer.
Johnson maintained that he did not know his ball was resting in a bunker on 18. He thought he was playing from a bare spot. This is probably understandable because people were standing in the bunker as he approached his ball. Furthermore, David Price who was the walking referee was nearby the bunker and was never summoned by Johnson for a clarification. Interestingly enough, after Johnson blew his tee shot right on No. 14 into a bunker, he asked Price for a clarification on where the margins of the bunker extended- nearly similar circumstances. It is the player's responsibility to summon a rules official.
Afterwards, Johnson admitted that he had never read the Rules Sheet. Fellow competitor Nick Watney said, "You know, we get those rules sheets every week and I never read them." I would say that after Sunday's PGA Championship finale, more players will be reading the rules sheet!
Chip Essig, of Indianapolis, was the rules official stationed on the 18th hole Sunday. He waives his rules responsibility and becomes an observer when the final five groups come to the 18th hole. "It was very unfortunate. We went to great lengths to identify the areas that were bunkers. The rule was correctly applied," said Essig.
According to Essig, there were actually two groundings of the club by Johnson. "We were informed by the person who watches the telecast for the rules committee that Dustin had possibly grounded his club. David Price did the correct thing by allowing him to finish the hole before informing him of the rule.
"Dustin's dad was an assistant pro for me when I worked in Columbia, S.C. Nobody wanted to see Dustin win more than me," said Essig. "It's hard to believe that these guys are out there playing for over a million dollars and they can't take five minutes to read the rules sheet."
In the aftermath of the PGA Championship, much has been made about the severity of the decision. This is what makes golf special. It might be the only sport where players called penalties on themselves. As one radio personality said, "Baseball players look for ways to beat the rules. Golfers look for ways to have the rules beat them."
Not to be lost in Sunday's drama were the clutch performances by Marten Kaymer and Bubba Watson. Both played admirably and deserved to win. Kaymer's up and down for par on 18 to earn a playoff spot was superb. His birdie on the par 3, 17th, to get even with Watson with one hole to go in the three-hole sudden death playoff was clutch.
A German official said this about Kaymer, "Fame and fortune have not changed Marten. He is the same wonderful person that he was five years ago when he turned professional. Marten is a fine example for his countrymen and for those around the world."
Trust me. Kaymer will win more majors.
Watson said this, "I went for the win and just didn't hit the shot on the last hole. I made the Ryder Cup team and that was what I really wanted." The same could be said for Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jeff Overton, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as all finished in the top eight of the Ryder Cup points.
Corey Pavin will name the remaining four players to his U.S. team in New York City on Sept. 7. His team will have a good mix of youth and experience. Watson, Kuchar, Johnson and Overton all have that fearless approach.
That being said, Captain Pavin might want to think about conducting a rules meeting for his youngsters once they get to Celtic Manor. You better read those rules sheets, boys!
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