Monday, August 16, 2010

The PGA: Memorable For All The Wrong Reasons

I know Dustin Johnson did it to himself. The rules, strange as golf rules can be, were handed to him before the PGA Championship began and he didn't bother to read them. That doesn't make him different from most of the pros who tee it up week to week but it led to his awful gaffe Sunday at Whistling Straits.

The local rules were reportedly even taped to mirrors in the locker room to remind players to pay attention because Whistling Straits -- one wildly different place -- has more bunkers than can be counted and and everyone was forewarned.

But the way the PGA Championship ended was a mess and there was plenty of blame to pass around. Johnson is the guy who suffers the most though he deserves credit for taking questions and explaining what happened, no matter how embarrassed and angry and frustrated he must have felt. He could have skulked away but he didn't and, in the weird way sports works, he has thousands more fans today than he did two days ago.

But there's something about Whistling Straits that seems just too contrived for my taste. It's beautiful to look at but it strikes me as borderline goofy. It's the only place where I've covered a golf tournament and they handed out medical reports detailing how many spectators were injured trying to watch the action while climbing the manmade dunes.

It has a terrible finishing hole and the bunkering is over the top. Hundreds of them are on the course for effect, not actually considered to be play. That's why most of the bunkers aren't manicured and why Johnson didn't realize he was in a bunker on Sunday afternoon, since it had been filled with spectators moments earlier.

Here's another question: If you're going to have a rules official walking with the final group, shouldn't that person be there to advise a player if he's in a hazard? Especially at Whistling Straits, where no one's quite sure where the bunkers end and the rest of the course begins?

Johnson would have been wise to ask, obviously, but he didn't.

There was nothing wrong with what the PGA of America did in penalizing Johnson two strokes for grounding his club in a hazard. They followed the rules.

But the whole thing felt like a mess. The week started with the ugly Corey Pavin-Jim Grey episode and it ended with Martin Kaymer winning a tournament that will be remembered for what happened to Dustin Johnson.

It gave Whistling Straits a little piece of golf history. But not the kind anyone or any place can feel good about.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing about Whistling Straits. It's got the PGA 3 times in a 12 year span, and a Ryder Cup coming up in 2020, I believe. It's only 12 years old and has held all these big professional and amateur events.

But why? There are hundreds of great courses in this country capable of holding a PGA Championship, including our own Quail Hollow which looks like it will get one soon, but they just keep going back to this place for some reason. Yeah, it's beautiful and linksy with no trees, but I'm baffled at why it gets all these tournaments.

Anonymous said...

The owner of this "golf course" must have incriminating pictures of the PGA brass that he holds over their head to get events.

I can't get in to an event if I can't get in to the course. And as far as this course translates to TV, it does not. Yes, the lake is scenic, but even on a big HD TV I have no clue as to where the player is trying to hit his shot unless he is close to the green or putting.

I enjoyed the women's amatuer much, much more this week. A course I got to walk just about anywhere for free, with no injury reports, and could watch on TV and actually see where the player was trying to play their shot.

Fred said...

I agree that the Whistling Straights design was inspired by Goony Golf at Myrtle Beach. It is not worthy of hosting a major. This rules infraction would have never happened on a more conventional golf course because it is obvious when you are in a bunker.