A Dustin Johnson bunker shot cost him the PGA Championship. But the Dustin Johnson bunker buzz isn’t about a bad shot, as the Dustin Johnson bunker controversy went beyond that. When the PGA Championship leader hit his first shot on the 18’th into a crowd, he had an uphill battle to salvage par and win it all. Although he ultimately failed, he had still assured himself a spot in a three-way playoff. But replays of his second shot delayed the playoff, as did debate over the location. Ultimately, because the second stroke was a Johnson bunker shot, he was disqualified before he could get into the playoff.
The location that Johnson found himself in for his second shot was a worn out location. However, it was ruled that it was ultimately a bunker. According to PGA Rules, Johnson could not put his club on the ground at anytime during his shot, and that is what he did during his swing.
Because of the Dustin Johnson bunker grounding, he was penalized two strokes, and therefore unable to play in a three hole playoff. Just minutes earlier, he could have won the PGA Championship with a par putt. As it turned out, the PGA is exceedingly lucky he did not make that putt, or the penalty would have garnered even more blowback.
The Dustin Johnson bunker controversy doesn’t revolve around whether he grounded his club, which he clearly did. By the letter of the law, he earned his two stroke penalty – yet if he actually knew he was on a bunker, he wouldn’t have done it.
Since the location of the shot was an unconventional one, it wasn’t immediately clear if it was a bunker. If officials had determined beforehand whether it was or not, Johnson would have had a better idea on what to do. Nevertheless, the Dustin Johnson bunker ordeal would have been rendered moot, if his club never touched the ground to begin with.
Before this happened, Johnson was close to completing a Cinderella comeback. Two months ago, he shot an 80 in the last round of the U.S. Open, after starting the day with the lead. This time, playing partner and third round leader Nick Watney shot an 81, while Johnson was on the brink of finally winning a major.
Instead, the Dustin Johnson bunker penalty has officially made him the hard luck golfer of 2010. But at the least, he got closer to a major championship than he ever did on the last Sunday of the Open – yet therein lies the extra heartbreak.
Still, the Dustin Johnson bunker controversy is the lasting story of the PGA Championship, even moreso than Martin Kaymer’s playoff win. But if Johnson made his par and had the Wannamaker Trophy taken away, rather than a playoff shot, it would have been the non-Tiger Woods story of the decade.
Wall Street Journal- “Assessing Johnson’s Bunker Bummer”
New York Times- “A Victim of a Course’s Bunker Mentality”