Dustin Johnson Admits Grounding Club: Bunkergate at the PGA Championship

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2010

KOHLER, WI - AUGUST 15:  Dustin Johnson prepares to play his second shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the 92nd PGA Championship on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits on August 15, 2010 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson took himself out of a playoff for the PGA Championship title when he grounded his club in what was deemed to be a bunker on the 18th hole.  It appeared at first blush, to be a matted, trampled area of the rough, not necessarily a bunker. 

Johnson himself said that if he thought it was a bunker, he knows the rule on that.  Each golfer is given a copy of supplemental rules for a competition prior to the event.

“You know, walking up there, seeing the shot, it never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap,” Johnson said. “ I guess the only worse thing that could have happened would be if I had made that putt on the last hole.”  Johnson had a putt for birdie and seeming outright victory.

“I thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” Johnson explained.

However, as it turned out “anything with sand” had been deemed to be a bunker before play started on Thursday.  The sheet, titled, Supplementary Rules of Play, clearly indicates:

 “This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the rope, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints, and tire tracks during the play of the Championships.  Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”

As Johnson exited the 18th green, an official approached him and said he thought Johnson had grounded his club in a bunker.   Johnson asked him what bunker.

“Pretty muc,h he said that any piece of sand on the whole golf course is a bunker,” Johnson explained. “But then, you know. we looked on TV and I definitely grounded my club, which, I mean, I never denied.”

From the extensive video replays, it appeared that Johnson grounded his club in whatever it was twice, one time prior to addressing the ball and then prior to the shot.

He was assessed a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker prior to signing his scorecard and then finished the tournament at -9 instead of -11. 

Each twosome had a rules official walking with it, and there is the question of where that rules official was when it was apparent that Johnson’s lie might be in a questionable location. Why would that official not have said something first?


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