Golf’s silly, silly rules

OAKMONT, PA. – Sunday at the U.S. Open was an illuminating day for golf.

First, and foremost, we learned that Dustin Johnson is not the star of some never-ending farce. He can break from the role for which he had been type-cast and play the dashing, victorious leading man.

And, while we were at it, we were reminded that the rules of golf exist as much to make itself feel morally superior as they do to actually keep the competition fair and balanced.

Had it not been for Johnson’s resoluteness down the stretch – as well as a lack of interest by the rest of the U.S. Open field in really pushing him – this major golf tournament had the potential to conclude as unsatisfactorily as “The Soprano’s.”

Did Dustin Johnson cause his ball to waver a mere millimeter on the green five holes into his final, championship round? He said no, and played on under the initial ruling that he was good.

But the United States Golf Association began looking into the fine print, and discovered that, basically, the player is always wrong. As the Fox Network crew broke down Johnson’s movements on the green in slow motion, painfully up-close detail, it could not be clearly determined that the player did anything to cause the ball to waffle. It certainly was obvious that Johnson gained not a micron of competitive advantage by the slight movement.

Yet, it says right there in the rules: “If the weight of evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the player caused the ball to move, even though that conclusion is not free from doubt, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty …”

Here is where the USGA really choked, to use the same vile verb so often applied to Johnson in his other major tournament failures. Instead of assessing the penalty on the spot, it informed Johnson seven holes later that he might be facing the loss of a stroke. They’d talk about it at the end of the round.

Not even the prigs of golf could deny Dustin Johnson his first major tournament victory, Sunday at the U.S. Open. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Not even the prigs of golf could deny Dustin Johnson his first major tournament victory, Sunday at the U.S. Open. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Hey, can we get the Warriors and Cavs back on the floor now? LeBron James clearly goal-tended at the end of their Game 7 Sunday.

Watching from a distance, some of Johnson’s peers took to social media to make their case.

Tweeted Rory McIlroy: “This is ridiculous… No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from USGA.”

From Jordan Spieth: “Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn’t address it. It’s ruled that he didn’t cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?”

Could have been a joke had Johnson not bailed out the stuffy rulers by performing so well under the cloud of their indecision. One stroke here or there didn’t matter in the end.

Really, it worked out just great for everyone. Johnson got the result he deserved. And golf got to assess him a meaningless penalty and prove once more that it is the most self-righteous of the games we play.

Reader Comments 0

8 comments
DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

I think the USGA did it the way they should have. First Johnson claimed he hadn't done anything to 'cause the ball to move', said so to the rulres guy with his group who then had to say 'play on'...then the rules officials, knowing that they had penalized the Irishman, Lowry, a stroke the day before, probably wanted to make sure they weren't showing favoritism to the - USA, USA, USA - DJ guy, took a closer look...and guess what? The ball did in fact move and the only thing that could, logically, have caused it is the player. It wasn't the wind, it wasn't a worm, it wasn't osmosis and it wasn't spontaneous combustion. It had to be the player, but the player said he hadn't and they wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and look at the evidence so he could understand. They knew what they knew but figured he should, at least be aware of the likelihood that he would have one more stroke added to his total. I also believe Johnson realized something he did caused the ball to move. Watch his routine and you'll see he 'jerks' the club away from 'address' an instant before we actually see the movement of the ball...only he couldn't, or wouldn't, admit that he was the 'cause'.

I'd like to hear someone discuss the possibility of the back and forth movement of the putter, in the heat, may have created some static electricity and that, perhaps with a steel-core ball, on slick greens may have done the deed...regardless it would mean 'the player caused it'.

RFC49
RFC49

@DawgWhistle 1. Lowry called the penalty on himself, admitting he did cause the ball to move.

2. Highly contoured greens that were running about 14 on the stimpmeter and the ball moved backwards - and your explanation is some magical force field.  Good one.


almmanduane75
almmanduane75

The US Open was boring and it seems every major is turning in to a bore as well.


There is too much money. Guys know they can hit it in the middle of the green, make pars and earn a great living.

Doesn't matter anyway. Most of them can't putt that well.


How many great shots did we see in this event?


Not many. 

greyie
greyie

Golf is the only sport where character and truth matter. A football player will lie through his teeth about catching a pass when he knows he didn't. A basketball player will act like he has been shot in a drive-by when someone bumps him slightly and cry like a 2 year old when charged with a foul that he knows he committed. The worst are the likes of Gomez who hates anything that represents a finite truth about the rules of a sport. Go back to your beer pong and watching 9 foot tall freak of nature dunk a ball through a hoop.

It's not that because I play golf that I think I'm better than you, I know I'm better than you.

C_Casselberry
C_Casselberry

@greyie Contrary to the infallibility the voices in your head claim you possess - your fecal matter does indeed possess odor. 

Gomez Addams
Gomez Addams

@greyie BUT----these self-righteous people have publicly called Dustin Johnson a liar because he said he didn't make the ball move!  And yet they handed him the trophy.  If he's a dirty rotten liar, they should have kicked him out of the tournament.  Right?

foxdog
foxdog

Nobody on earth is as anal as the "protectors of the game", the rulers of the USGA...

Gomez Addams
Gomez Addams

There are a few groups of people I just hate, despise and hold in utter contempt.  Probably at the top of that list are the golf rules crowd.  They're worse than 70 year old librarians that used to shush at you in high school when you whispered. They're worse than insurance examiners who inform you that you are not covered for a life-saving medical procedure.  But the golf people are the worse.  Their attitude is like the aristocratic British military in the 1770s---they're better than us, they are superior, they are God's favored.  No other sport has to deal with such an unsavory crowd that so believes in their innate superiority.  Dern them all.