SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — A controversial rules violation marred the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday and cost Dustin Johnson a spot in a playoff and a possible major title.
Johnson grounded his club in what was deemed to be a bunker before his second shot, leading to a 2-stroke penalty.
That knocked him out of a potential playoff won by Martin Kaymer over Bubba Watson.
It is the biggest rules snafu at a major championship since the 1968 Masters, where Argentina’s Robert De Vicenzo signed for a higher score than he had shot during the final round. That meant he had to accept that score, and missed a playoff with Bob Goalby by 1 stroke.
De Vicenzo’s famous quote afterward: “What a stupid I am.”
Johnson wasn’t feeling stupid Sunday, just stunned. Whistling Straits has more than 1,000 bunkers, several of which would normally be deemed “waste areas” in which a player can ground his club.
But a local rule was in play for the championship, stating that all sand areas would be played as hazards.
“I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” a despondent Johnson said in the locker room afterward. “I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker.
“Obviously I know the rules of golf and I can’t ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder.”