(AP) Dustin Johnson had a 7-foot putt to win the PGA Championship. Minutes later, he wasn’t allowed in the playoff when he was penalized two shots for grounding his club in a bunker on the final hole Sunday.
Johnson had a one-shot lead on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits when he hit into a bunker to the right of the fairway where thousands of fans had been walking all week. Unaware he was in a bunker, he grounded his club before hitting toward the green.
After missing his par putt for the victory, Johnson was assessed a two-shot penalty. Instead of 71 to join Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson in the three-hole playoff, he erased his score from a 5 to a 7 and signed for a 73 to tie for fifth.
It was the cruelest ruling at a major since Roberto de Vicenzo accidentally signed for a higher score at the 1968 Masters, and the victory went to Bob Goalby.
“Walking up there, seeing the shot, it never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap,” Johnson said. “It very unfortunate. The only worse thing that could have happened was if I had made the putt on that last hole.”
It was the second major disappointment this year for the 26-year-old Johnson. He had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, only to make triple bogey on the second hole and shoot 82.
That was his own fault. This is sure to create plenty of finger-pointing at the design of the course, and the PGA of America’s decision to treat every bunker – even if the gallery puts a lawn chair in the sand – as a hazard.
Six years ago, Stuart Appleby was assessed a four-shot penalty when he drove into the gallery and grounded his club, thinking it was a waste area.
The PGA of America put a notice in the locker room all week that every sand trap was in play regardless of its location.
“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have thought I was in a bunker,” Johnson said. “But I’ve got to deal with it.”
He spoke in the locker room in street clothes as Watson and Kaymer played for a piece of history.
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