Possible change in view of penalty shot 'distraction'

OAKMONT (Pennsylvania) • The organisers of golf's US Open said on Monday that they regretted the "distraction caused" by their decision to wait until after the final round to issue a one-stroke penalty to the eventual champion, Dustin Johnson.

The United States Golf Association (USGA), however, did not back down from its decision to enforce the penalty based on its examination of the various factors when his ball moved as he was preparing to putt on the fifth green on Sunday.

Nevertheless, a day after the lack of an immediate ruling created uncertainty for hours in the climactic moments of the country's national championship, the USGA also indicated that it might handle the same situation differently in the future.

"We will assess our procedures for handling video review, the timing of such, and our communication with players to make sure that when confronted with such a situation again, we will have a better process," it said.

Although Johnson had consulted a rules official on the green after his ball moved and had been allowed to continue without penalty, he was informed by USGA officials on the 12th tee that, after a video review, he might still be penalised a stroke.

That set in motion a situation rarely seen in sport, in which Johnson's actual score was not known even as the competition was winding down.

The American ended up building a large lead over the rest of the field, which assured him of victory as he putted out on the 18th green for his first Major championship.

Johnson, who turns 32 today, was then assessed the penalty but still won by three strokes.

The USGA said in its statement: "While our focus on getting the ruling correct was appropriate, we created uncertainty about where players stood on the leader board after we informed Dustin on the 12th tee that his actions on the fifth green might lead to a penalty.

"This created unnecessary ambiguity for Dustin and the other players, as well as spectators on site, and those watching and listening on television and digital channels."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Possible change in view of penalty shot 'distraction''. Subscribe