Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Deeper Dig on Golf's 'Farce'

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Deeper Dig on Golf's 'Farce'

Article excerpt

For a moment there was misguided anxiety.

It came in the midst of the U.S. Open's final round of golf, when a mushroom cloud of a ruling appeared over eventual winner Dustin Johnson. "Please, came the thought, "don't let it be Charleston's Ken Tackett making the ruling.

Finally, there was a sigh of relief. I realized Tackett, the former executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association, is a rules official for the PGA Tour - not the USGA, which had jurisdiction.

Which was a good thing. The ruling - or temporary lack thereof - was called a farce. It was called unfair. The ruling was said to have "spoiled and "ruined the tournament and Johnson's win. Stars like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth took to social media to lodge complaints. Jack Nicklaus voiced displeasure.

And, to a large degree, the complaints were valid. Even the USGA eventually issued a statement saying it "regrets the distraction.

But let's dig a little deeper.

To recap, Mark Newell, chairman of the USGA's rules committee, was in place for Johnson's group. On hole No. 5, Johnson stood near his ball on the green. He took two short practice strokes and then began to move his putter behind the ball. But before he "grounded his putter, the ball moved a couple millimeters.

Johnson immediately backed off and told fellow competitor Lee Westwood what had happened. Westwood said Johnson did nothing to make the ball move - and Newell agreed to allow Johnson to play the ball where it came to rest without penalty. (It was best, by the way, Johnson did back off and point it out, or a two-stroke penalty could have been called.)

On the 12th tee, however, USGA official Jeff Hall pulled Johnson aside and said video had been reviewed and a potential one-shot penalty was likely, but he'd be able to plead a case at the round's conclusion. The uncertainty hung around the tournament's neck like an albatross.

In the end, Johnson was assessed the penalty for initiating movement, but, thankfully, it didn't matter. He won by more than a stroke. …

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