$h*! The PGA Says

The disqualification of Dustin Johnson in the 2010 PGA Championship this evening is just ridiculous.  Just absurd and a darn shame.

I am sometimes golfer, and I understand the rules.  I understand how the rules were applied in this instance.  A player cannot (allow the club to touch the) ground in a sand trap.  If the player touches his club to the ground in a sand trap in any context, it is a two-shot penalty.

Does This Look Like a Sand Trap?

Spectators Standing Around the "Sand Trap"

Hmm. Aren't Bunkers Usually Raked?

My problem is the way this rule was applied this afternoon.  It was applied as black-and-white, with zero interpretation.  Mark Wilson, the gentleman from the PGA whom Peter Kostis of CBS interviewed, said, and I paraphrase, “We told all the players that there were a lot of bunkers out there that would be trampled and probably wouldn’t look like bunkers, but they are bunkers.  Dustin read the rules, and he should have known.”

Dustin Johnson really had no choice but to comply with the rules.  He said in an interview with David Feherty that he never once thought it was a bunker (and Feherty agreed).  And I don’t believe anyone watching did either.

There was no flexibility and no consideration of the reality of the situation.  That’s where I think the PGA is full of you-know-what.

Giving Johnson the two-shot penalty is similar to:

  • Giving someone a parking ticket when the “No Parking” sign is missing from the spot they parked.
  • Failing a student on a test for using a pen instead of a pencil, or vice versa, when it’s not a scantron, and the answers were legible.
  • Not allowing a high school player to play in a Friday night game when they did not meet the Friday school attendance requirement due to a family emergency.
  • Not giving someone a reduced sales price because they arrive an hour after the sale ended due to obvious weather conditions that limited driving.
  • Punishing a 14-year-old for driving, when it was the only option to get an injured person to the hospital.

The PGA should be embarrassed for its lack of flexibility.  “We warned you” is their answer.  I guess the county has warned me to watched out for No Parking zones, but it’s fair of me to expect those zones to be well marked.

Congrats to Martin Kaymer for his victory.  In the end, however, this tournament will be known for Johnson’s penalty and, I hope,  for a liberalization and newly applied flexibility of golf’s rules to square them up with reality.


Golfing With My Parents on July 4

On this July 4, it’s time to take a break from the World Cup, from free agency in both the NBA and NHL, and from the discussion of whether Stephen Strasburg should be in baseball’s all-star game.

Because July 4 is a day that families spend together, I’ve decided to post about the round of golf I played with my son and parents in Delaware. It was a six-hour (!) round of golf in a hot, humid, bug-infested environment.  But it was also an example of sport bringing together multiple family generations.

The golf wasn’t good. My dad shot 108, and he was at least 10 strokes better than me. I had given up scoring on the fourth hole, so I honestly don’t know my score.

The View from the Driving Range on July 4

I had some real Caddyshack moments on the course.  At first, I felt like we were at Bushwood Country Club itself when loud music blared from across the cove as I and my collared shirt grabbed golf balls from a well-formed pyramid on the driving range. Get the picture?

My son played like Judge Smails’ nephew Spaulding (Sorry, Caddyshack aficionados, that’s the only similarity). And my dad was a bit like Judge Smails himself, in that he’s a stickler for the rules and for fast play.

But, to be fair, the day was about the time we spent together.

It was about my son and his grandma riding in the same cart (she with lit Marlboro menthol in hand) and laughing as she explains what a FISH golf shot is (fuck it’s still here).

It was about my dad, just like a dad should,  telling me that it was ok when I plunked one in the water (never mind I’m 43 and didn’t really care about the lost ball).

It was about my mom, just like a mom should, telling me not to drink beer on the course because it dehydrated you (I drunk one anyway).

It was about my son, just like a 15-year-old should, actively and loudly washing his ball as his grandma tried to tee off.  His grandma said it was ok, and his grandpa took the opportunity explain golf etiquette, just like they each should.

And it was about the sneer my mom gave me when I asked if my son could drive the cart, which is against club rules, yet happily letting him drive a few holes later, just as a grandma should.

There was no family celebration over a hole-in-one or even a chip-in. There was no emotional hug on the 18th green. By the time my dad and I putted out on 18, my mom and son were safely in my folks’ air-conditioned house, having left after the 13th hole.

I left the course knowing that my son will remember this day with his grandparents, just as I remember a day driving the cart for my dad’s dad. And someday, when I play golf with him and his son or daughter, he’ll tell them about this day with fond memories.

He’ll probably compare me to my dad or my mom or both. I will probably deserve it. That will be fine with me.