I don’t play or follow golf, but all the stories about the controversial ending to yesterday’s PGA Championship caught my attention. A golfer named Dustin Johnson was leading by one stroke on one of the final holes. All he had to do was shoot par and he would win the tournament. But one of his shots went off to the side of the fairway, landing in what looked on TV like an area overgrown with grass. Johnson stood next to the ball, placed his club on the ground behind it, and made a nice shot which landed within feet of the green. He chipped on but two-putted which put him over par. While he was on the next hole, a tournament official approached Johnson and told he that he’d been assessed a two shot penalty for “grounding his club in a bunker.”
Golf rule 13-4 “does not permit grounding the club in a sand bunker or water hazard” which means you can’t let your club touch the ground when preparing your shot – I guess it’s meant to prevent players from purposely or inadvertently improving the position of the ball before taking the shot. While Johnson undoubtedly knew this rule, he didn’t realize the place where his ball landed was considered to be a bunker. It was a costly lesson for him because it kept him out of the playoff and the opportunity to win the tournament.