Ken Willis talks to PGA Tour VP of rules and competitions Slugger White, who says the USGA got the Dustin Johnson penalty right, got the notification of the players correct, and also wishes the rule was changed ASAP. He also says the green speed chase must be evaluated, calling this the "root of the problem".
“If it had been Thursday, Friday or Saturday, they would’ve met him in the scoring area after his round and taken him to see the video and go from there,” said Slugger. “But in the final round, you have to tell him because he has to know his strategy coming down the stretch. They told every other player in the field about Dustin’s situation, too, which I think was good.”
The underlying issue here is the modern love affair with lightning-fast greens, which invite the inadvertent movement of golf balls that are sitting atop the marble-like surface. There’s been plenty of blow-back on green speeds in the wake of DJ’s high-profile situation, and maybe something good will come out of it, because ridiculous green speeds have hurt golf at all levels.
Unless and until there’s a philosophical shift on green speeds, Slugger would love to see the rule amended again to allow for the replacement of a ball that moves for any reason without being touched.
“I’ve been beating that horse for years,” he said.
It's fascinating how the rules community continues to see a violation while most golfers I've talked to can't see anything close to evidence of Johnson causing the ball to move. Nor can many even make sense of the entire episode more than a week later, other than to express disdain for the rules of golf.
White's comments also contradict the view of most players that the PGA Tour rules staff would have ruled differently.
Michael Bamberger tried to make sense of it all and while he concludes the rules officials did what they had to do, this does not mean it came without consequences.
The movement of the ball had no practical influence on whether Johnson was going to make that short putt or not. But it had the potential to have a profound influence on who won the 116th U.S. Open. It was a perfect storm. It was a study in conflict and conflicting agendas and incomplete evidence. It was, and remains, a mess. The Rules of Golf seek to turn all matters into black-and-white cases. But then real-life oddness raises its head and bedlam ensues. Something made that ball move and someone was going to pay for it. In the end, both the USGA and its newest champion did.