USGA on the defensive after DJ ruling
The USGA has come to its own defence after receiving widespread criticism over a controversial ruling against Dustin Johnson.
The controversy began on the fifth hole of Johnson's final round when his ball moved after he had completed his practice putting strokes.
He stepped back and informed USGA official Mark Newell that he hadn’t addressed the ball before it moved. Newell seemed satisfied – as did Johnson's playing partner Lee Westwood – and Johnson continued with his round.
Then, a few holes later, Johnson was approached by Newell and Jeff Hall on the 12th tee and told that he could still be docked a penalty shot after finishing his round.
Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods were just some of players to hit out at the decision to review the incident after the round:
This is ridiculous… No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 19, 2016
Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?
— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) June 19, 2016
Some great golf by @DJohnsonPGA all week, strong way to finish overcoming that rules farce. Happy Father's Day to DJ and all of you.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) June 20, 2016
Johnson would eventually be penalised a stroke and his closing 68 was changed to a 69, but thankfully it had no effect on the final result.
That hasn't stopped the criticism of the USGA for its handling of the situation, however, prompting its managing director of rules and competition, Jeff Hall, to step up to try and defend the Association.
"We were concerned about what we saw and felt obligated to have a conversation with Dustin about it, and the 12th tee presented the best opportunity to do that," said Hall.
"We told him that what we saw was a concern, but we also asked him a couple of questions; effectively was there something else that could have caused the ball to move? As we had that discussion, it became very apparent that we weren't going to get to a resolution there.
"We just wanted him to realise that we were concerned so that he could strategically make decisions that he needed to make for the balance of the round. It was clear we needed a further conversation, and the 12th tee did not seem to be the right place for that.
"Every situation has its own unique circumstances and we feel pretty comfortable with the process that we had to resolve this one. We did notify the other players before Dustin finished the 12th hole. We verbally advised each player what could happen so they had the same benefit as Dustin did.
"I think every situation is unique and you've got to review the facts and do the best you can. It's a tough situation, we did the best that we could and we feel pretty comfortable with the process that we had in place."
Responding specifically to the decision to impose the penalty, Hall said he did not feel it was overly harsh on Johnson.
"There's going to be doubt in these situations, but on balance, based on the evidence that we saw, we are comfortable that a one-stroke penalty was to be incurred," he added.
"With the rules of golf, it's about getting it right and there are times when a decision has to be made and some will agree with it, and some will not. We had evidence that we had to act on. If you don't act on evidence that you have, I think it could be detrimental to the game. I really do."
Rory McIlroy makes brilliant start to fog-affected Abu Dhabi Championship
McIlroy has a remarkable record in Abu Dhabi with four second-place finishes.
Rory McIlroy shines in Abu Dhabi to take first-round lead following flawless 64
McIlroy has a remarkable record in Abu Dhabi with four second-place finishes, three thirds and a fifth in his last nine starts, but has never won.
Justin Thomas on end of Ralph Lauren deal: ‘They moved on so that’s what I’m doing as well’
Justin Thomas said he was upset by...
My last win feels a long time ago – Rory McIlroy aiming to start year on a high
McIlroy has not tasted victory since November 2019.
Rory McIlroy insists Justin Thomas will ‘try to be better’ after homophobic slur
World number three Thomas was heard using a derogatory word towards himself after missing a par putt in Hawaii.
Rory McIlroy backs Tiger Woods to make quick recovery from latest back surgery
McIlroy expects the American to be fit for the Masters in April.
Tiger Woods focusing on return to PGA Tour after undergoing fifth back operation
The 45-year-old will miss the Farmers Insurance Open and the Genesis Invitational.
Lee Westwood resumes bid for record-equalling 11th Ryder Cup appearance
The 47-year-old occupied one of the automatic places in the team before the golf was stopped due to Covid-19.
Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew turns to Golfer’s CBD in pursuit of further success
Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew believes Golfer’s CBD could play a vital role in her future success.