PGA President doesn't expect bunker rule to change at Whistling Straits

dustin johnson
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Dustin Johnson's bunker shot on Sunday will go down as one of the most indelible moments of the 92nd PGA Championship.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press


When the PGA Championship returns in five years to Whistling Straits, the rules on playing the countless bunkers might still be in place.

The golf world was still reeling Monday over the two-shot penalty given to Dustin Johnson on the final hole of the 92nd PGA Championship on Sunday. He grounded his 4-iron in the sand to the right of the fairway, not aware he was in a bunker.

Johnson had a one-shot lead when he teed off on the 18th. He missed a 7-foot par putt and seemed to slip into a playoff. But when he learned he had let his club touch the sand during his preshot routine, Johnson added two shots to his score and tied for fifth.

Asked if there was any consideration to change the unusual local bunker rule for 2015, PGA of America President Jim Remy said, “Not at this point.”

“Obviously, it’s the day after,” Remy said. “I’m sure (Championship Director) Kerry Haigh will do his due diligence. He made the decision not to do it from 2004 to 2010. My guess is that probably the way we’re leaning is to leave it that way.”

It wasn’t the first time someone paid for the bunker rule at Whistling Straits.

When the PGA Championship was first played there in 2004, Stuart Appleby was penalized four shots late in the third round for removing a dead piece of grass (two shots) to the right of the 16th hole and touching the sand on a practice swing (two shots). That didn’t cost him a major championship, though.

What never will be known is how Johnson would have fared in the three-hole playoff, which Martin Kaymer won over Bubba Watson. It was the most shocking finish involving rules at a major since Roberto de Vicenzo signed for a 4 when he had made a 3 on the 17th hole of the final round in the 1968 Masters. He had to accept the higher score and finished one shot behind Bob Goalby.

Johnson said he didn’t look at the rules sheet that had been posted all week in the locker room and on the first tee throughout the week, explaining that every bunker was a hazard, even if they were outside the ropes where the gallery had been standing.

“It was unfortunate for Dustin. I feel bad for him. He’s a PGA member, just like I am,” said Remy, the general manager of Okemo Valley Golf Club in Vermont. “I feel sad for him the way it all unfolded. But that’s the rules of golf. Those things happen in sports, and nobody feels good about it.”

Remy said he didn’t see a practical solution for 2015, or in 2020 for the Ryder Cup.

“Do you mark 900 of them not as bunkers and 300 as bunkers? How do you ever mark them?” he said. “Clearly, with this happening, players will be more aware of it in the future. And we didn’t have any other infractions during the week.”

Players continued to weigh in on both sides.

“In light of PGA finish, Augusta just announced new seating for patrons available in right greenside bunker by 18 green,” Stewart Cink joked on Twitter.

PGA Tour rookie Kris Blanks, who missed the cut at the PGA, posted a picture of a child’s sandbox and suggested that would be considered a bunker at Whistling Straits.

Johnson tied for fifth, still enough for him to easily make the Ryder Cup team. The only way he would have failed to finish among the top eight qualifiers would have been to sign his card for a bogey and learn of the bunker gaffe later. Then, he would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect score.

“The one thing that I will remember from this more than anything is the way Dustin handled himself,” Pavin said. “He was very mature. I couldn’t imagine a player handling it any better than he did. He played beautiful golf on Sunday, put himself in position to win the tournament. I think it was the proper ruling. It was an unfortunate situation.”

Among the questions raised was whether the marshals should have done a better job clearing out the gallery around Johnson, which might have made it clearer to him that he was on the edge of a bunker.

Johnson thought it was grass that had been trampled all week by foot traffic.

The PGA rules official didn’t remind Johnson that he was in a bunker -- if he even knew -- although Paul Goydos pointed out that a rules official’s job is not to remind players of the rule, rather to interpret them if a player asks.

Goydos is not sure he would change the bunker rules for 2015.

“You’ve either got to say they’re all bunkers or they’re not bunkers,” Goydos said. “I don’t think you take into account that guys would hit the ball 75 yards off line. Maybe they could have cleared the gallery so he could see the bunker. It’s just a weird situation.”

Asked if the PGA of America could make a rule that anything outside the ropes is not a bunker, Goydos shook his head.

“Now you’re trying to call foul balls and fair balls,” he said.

After Johnson hit his 4-iron to the left of the 18th green into a difficult spot, he sent a magnificent flop shop to 7 feet. That gave him a chance -- or so it seemed -- to win his first major. Remy was standing behind the 18th green watching it all unfold when he heard radio traffic about a potential problem on the bunker shot.

It was not clear if PGA officials noticed the problem on the telecast or if someone alerted them to it.

Remy wasn’t sure what to think.

“I was aware of what was unfolding, but at that time, I didn’t know the outcome,” he said. “I knew there was a question. I was aware we were going to have to deal with the issue. But I wanted the putt to go in because I didn’t know what the ruling would be. I thought it would have been an epic finish to a great championship.”

And what if the putt had gone in?

“It didn’t,” Remy said. “But I sure thought about it.”



If the crowd was standing in a bunker, the game was out of control and the situation needed to be taken into account. But the crowd wasn't standing in a bunker, was it? So some parsimonious little bureaucrat of an official, who could never qualify for the event itself, tried to be more important than he ever could through intelligence or skill, and gave the entire sport a black eye.

Fire the officials. All of them. Especially the little twit who made the ridiculous ruling.


Neither Justin's Caddy, or the rules official who was walking with them could SEE past the 8 foot space provided by the mobs of people. THAT is why it should have been looked at from the players perspective. PERIOD. So few of TV viewers, if any, saw anything in the first go-around (live) to say it was a bunker, because it was obscured by the "gallery" ( a mob really, unruly and running over each other as usual. Pretty chaotic at the time.) If you are the Professional G.A. why do you NEED REPLAYS to rule on this???


Shame on you for picking a "tricked" up golf course for a major tournament. You had to change the Rules of Golf for one tournament ? Spectators standing in bunkers ? Yes, I kow you warned the players but this is akin to changing the strike zone for one World Series game.
People want to see golfers, not rules officials decide tournaments. As it is the 600+ page Decisions Book turns off many would-be fans. You evidently did not learn anything from the Appelby incident in 2004.
You will lose viewers as a result of this ruling dictated by a bizarre course design.
Additionally comparing this to the Roberto de Vicenzo situation is ridiculous. Since Jr. Golf we are taught check our scorecard every time we play. In the thousands of rounds played by Mr. Johnson I doubt one had local rules allowing spectators in "bunkers" .
Drop the venue or fix it!


golf is a miniature of life itself....hard but fair!


Dear PGA of America,

You wonder why you are the step-child of the four majors. The Masters has Augusta National, The US Open has Oakmont, WInged Foot, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, The British Open has St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and you guys have . . . Whistling Straits . . . huh? How can you play a major on a golf course where professional golfers can not determine whether they are in a bunker or not. Do you know how silly this is for a major . . . this has happened to you twice now at this venue. Only the PGA of America.

And Mr. Remy, do not compare yourself to Dustin Johnson. Have you ever hit a meaningful golf shot in your life? What a pompous ass statement. I agree with Stewart Cink, maybe Augusta should put bleachers in the greenside bunker at 18. Mickey Mouse golf course hosting a tournament being run by a Mickey Mouse organization. Hope you all choke on it to be blunt

The UnSIlent Majority


To the PGA, USGA, and course manager of Whistling Straits,
The question of whether Dustin was in a bunker or not is not conclusive, despite some folks' certainty.
For reference, in part, "A "bunker" is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.
Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker, including a stacked turf face (whether grass-covered or earthen), is not part of the bunker. A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker. " USGA definition.
Herein lies the problem. While I am not familiar with the course, I could not distinguish bunker, watse bunker, or through the green in most areas off the fairway. Given my understanding of the geology of the area, the soil and sub soil is sand. So how would a player distinguish bunker, waste bunker or through the green in sandy patchy grassy terrain? In equity, the benefit of the doubt should reside with the player. In light of the local rule that all sand is considered a bunker, then is the whole course a bunker (hazard) with the exception of the grassy parts and fairways? Where is any "through the green"? I would argue that the USGA should decide that such a local rule is invalid since most local soil at Whistling Straits is sand, and would be considered a waste bunker through the green. BTW was Pete Dye paid by the bunker? Humor intended.


I turned 58 last month. I have been watching golf with my parents and family since 1960. I have NEVER seen the PGA Rules committee or the staff on the scene make such a BAD RULING of any of the numerous rules of golf. The PLAYER COULD NOT SEE more than 4 ft on either side of where the ball came to rest. He was not able to see anything but flat ground, and there was grass within inches of his ball. That may have been a bunker last week, but not to ANYONE watching even on TV. He was not at fault! Consider your whole PGA as being overpaid, overstaffed, and over pompous for my tastes. I will no longer waste my time on these events. You really need to address this failure to the US Golfing population, but you won't just hide away behind your little rule book.


I was at Whistling Straights on Friday and watched Trevor Immelman pick a couple of rocks out of a fairway bunker on hole 2 prior to playing his shot. I remember having a conversation with my brother that the bunkers must be played with a local rule allowing that, since you can't move loose impediments in a bunker. Trevor missed the cut anyway so it wasn't a big deal in that case, but obviously Dustin Johnson was NOT the only one who didn't understand the rule.


The fact that they had the issue in the past and posted the notice and all tells you that they knew what could happen. What was the rules guy doing that was more important than being nearby when the leader of the tounament was in a potentially questionable situation? This is just poor judgement on the part of the PGA. That they are not considering doing something differently is absurd.
Dustin's experience was one of those lessons that hurt. That is what we call life. I know more now as well if I get to play in the PGA or Ryder cup there.


It's clear that his ball came to rest in a bunker. What's not clear is why this venue allows patrons to enter and stand in hazards. Either drop this venue or keep patrons out of all hazards. If that limits the viewing areas, then so be it. What's next, patrons swimming greenside with a drink in their hand. Correct ruling, lousy course for a major.


"It was unfortunate for Dustin. I feel sorry for him. He's a PGA member, just like I am." Are you kidding me, Remy? I didn't see you busting your butt for 72 holes just to be robbed of a potential major championship by a stupid local rule.

Please don't try to equate yourself with these pros. It makes you look even more ridiculous.


Do not blame PGA, do not blame the golf course.

WHERE WAS THE CADDY? did he fall asleep, Dustin Johnson has a caddy to remind him of these situations.



I totally agreed with jamie, drop this venue on the PGA list, I dont considered this a golf course for me it is an obstacle course. Who is in his right mind to put a bunker on the gallery? only stupid person!


While I doubt the PGA will do anything to cover their gaffe in all of this. I would be content seeing this venue dropped from use. This entire tournament was ruined and golf was the loser. People who watch sports for entertainment were robbed of an electric finish by a rule that quite frankly didn't have a shred of use in this circumstance. That rule didn't address hitting off of a bunker that clearly was deformed or quite frankly destroyed by an unruly crowd of spectators who couldn't give the golfer any room to breath. If you want to make a local rule make a rule where no gallery members are allowed to be within 15 yards of a competitor if a course is as gimmicky as Whistling Straits. I hope they drop this venue I truly do but if they don't, then it is up to the PGA to make sure the gallery, rules officials not doing their job and a stupid local rule doesn't ruin a championship that these guys work their butts off to win. It is up to you PGA of America to handle your tournaments the way you expect your participants to handle themselves, with class and dignity. One word describes this and one word alone, pitiful.