What else can I say? I didn’t know what to expect heading into the PGA championship at Whistling Straits this year with Tiger Woods horrible round last week, Mickelson being diagnosed with arthritis, and relatively unknown guys winning the previous 2 majors.
Heading into the final 2 days, a few players stood out. First of all, Bubba Watson had been playing solidly the opening rounds as well as Nick Watney, who posted 3 consecutive rounds under 70 and had a 3 stroke lead headed into Sunday. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer from Germany all stayed within a couple strokes of eachother.
Watson and Kaymer went into the clubhouse leaders tied at -11.
Shortly after that, D. Johnson birdied the 17th giving him the sole lead at -12 heading into the last hole.
The minimum score Johnson needed was a par (which was 4 on the 18th) and he will have won the major.
Johnson’s drive faded right and went well into the crowd. He approached his ball to find it lying on a flat dirty surface. The crowd moved from his way and Johnson hit his second shot just left of the green in the deep stuff. His third shot was a high flop shot within 6 feet of the hole for his major clinching par putt.
Johnson missed his putt right by and few inches and had to settle for a bogie, tying him with Watson and Kaymer already waiting in the clubhouse.
So now Johnson would have to win it in a 3 hole playoff right? Well, shortly after holing his bogey putt, PGA official notified Johnson that he had grounded his club in a bunker – to which Johnson replied “what bunker?”.
This is the one of worst mistakes you can make as a golfer. Its also one of the rarest. “Grounding” your club means touching the ground with the club before the actual striking of the ball (which is against the rules in a bunker). In most cases, its blatently obvious when your ball is lying in a bunker because most courses don’t have more than 3 per hole on average. Whistling Straits, however, boasts between 900-1200 bunkers on the course (depending how liberal you are in your judgement I suppose). The “bunker” Johnson hit into, however, was walked in, sat in, and roughed up to the point where it was hard to recognise as an actual bunker.
So what? Right? Well, Johnson incurred a 2 stroke penalty dropping him completely from the playoff and the title entirely.
He later interviewed and said the only thing that could have made this situation worse would have been if he had made the par putt to “win” the tournament in the first place. Can you imagine that moment for a second? You sink a putt after having to salvage 2 awful shots before that to win the PGA championship!!! And then….ummm well, we have an issue.
At the very least, Johnson missed the tournament winning putt first to ease him into depression.
Written by Dan Condie