Over the years, I have started to lose my interest in watching professional golf. It’s pretty surprising considering I have played competitive golf for half of my life. So when I found myself watching the PGA championship this weekend, I was shocked that I was so locked into the tournament. The PGA Championship is like the Red-Headed Step-Child of the PGA Majors. Honestly, I think more people care about the Players Championship, than the PGA.
So I thought about it over the last 2 days, and I now understand why I cared.
#1 – Tiger was out of contention. This was probably the main reason I was watching. There’s nothing worse that turning on a golf tournament that Tiger is seven strokes off the lead in, and the only guy on the course that TV cares to show, is him. Seriously, no one really cares that much about him anymore.
#2 – The course. I’ve seen it on TV a few times, and loved everything about it. It’s a bizarre combination of a links course and a traditional inland course. I liked that on many holes, there were multiple options off the tee. Do I try to cut the corner? Do I lay back? Do I grip it and rip it?
#3 – All the young guys. I love all these young guys who are starting to take over. It seems to me, that the days of Phil, Tiger, Ernie and Vijay are coming to an end rather quickly. The young players these days are winning at the age of 20-25. Back only about 10 years ago, 30 was considered young on the tour. The PGA tour is in great hands with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Anthony Kim, Martin Kaymer (If he decides to play in the US full-time), J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson (he’s 32, but essentially new to the tour), Rory McIlroy (Same boat as Kaymer), Jeff Overton, and Camilo Villegas to name a handful.
While watching the back 9 on Sunday, a buddy of mine and I were watching and BBM’ing (for those non-tech savvy people out there, that means Blackberry Messaging) back and forth about what was going on. I just kept telling myself that Dustin Johnson is my guy today. This kid is gonna get it done. To hell with the US Open fiasco! So when he got to the 12th, I sent the message “Dustin is gonna win it.” I was real confident in my statement.
When Johnson drilled the birdie putt on 17, I’ll admit that I let a little fist-pump go. After all, this was the guy I picked to win when he was 2 or 3 strokes back with 8 holes or so to go. Now when he stepped up to the 18th tee, needing only a par to win, I immediately thought to myself, “Don’t block-slice this to the right into the gallery, a la Phil Mickelson in the US Open”. FORE RIGHT!!!!! Ugh, no shocker there.
Now I’ll get to what everybody has been talking about the last few days…..Grounding the club in a hazard is a 2 stroke penalty. Almost everyone who plays golf or even watches it on TV knows that. But to lose the chance to win one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, due to crowd control, is ludicrous. Most people feel bad for the guy, and I’m gonna say that I do too. I’ll be honest when I say that when you get the rules sheet at the beginning of a tournament, you read through it quickly and basically forget about what you just read. Sure, there were notices put up all over the locker room about the 1,200+ bunkers out there, but seriously, how can anyone (other than Gene Wojciechowski) call out Johnson for not knowing that a trampled down dirt patch was a bunker?
Between Junior, High School, College, and Amateur tournaments, I have never encountered a situation where spectators are allowed to stand in a hazard. NEVER. Granted, the largest gallery I ever played in front of was probably 200 people, but still, the fact that 5,000 people were standing within 10 feet of the ball was a complete joke. There is no way that he had any idea that the ball was in a bunker. First of all, there was no clearly defined lip of a bunker near him. There was sand or dirt just spilled onto the ground. Secondly, no $400 per round, PGA Championship course should ever have a bunker with weeds, clumps of grass, and no defined lip. Third, when they showed the bunker with no people standing in it, you could see that there was kind of a lip up on the right side, but HOW THE HELL could Dustin know that there was a “lip”, when there were 4 rows of spectators standing in front of the lip, and IN the bunker? Not outside of the bunker, but IN the bunker.
I give Dustin Johnson a ton of credit on this one. At least not publicly, did he flip out, start screaming expletives, or anything like that. He gave a very mature interview after the ruling had been made. I’ve been called for the same grounding of the club in a hazard penalty in a tournament before, and I went ballistic. I thought the guy I was playing with was just a complete asshole and wanted to be a moron. Granted, it was my own fault, but it had no where near the ramifications that this shit show did.
The stupidity of the PGA not only cost Dustin Johnson the possibility of winning the PGA Championship, but it also possibly cost him over $1 million in prize money. I hope the PGA learns from this mistake, and keeps fans off the playing area. I am now officially a Dustin Johnson fan. Not only because I love his game, but I want to see him get vindication and win many, many major championships.