September- 2010

The Rules of Golf had a very interesting month in August. On the Pro Tours, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, Julie Inkster, Shi Hyun Ahn, and Il Mi Chung all had different violations.

The reason I mention each one of these Rules situations is because to me, they illustrate beautifully how the Rules of Golf function. Each one is chock full of controversy and emotion-didn't we watch the PGA and feel a little (a lot!) blindsided when Dustin Johnson was told he violated Rule 13-4: Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions and was now out of the playoff. Wow, that was a bunker?-There were people in it! That can't be right!!. Some friends of mine have argued strongly against such an unfair and WRONG decision!

Now stop for a moment- the only reason our society functions is because it has structure. We have laws and moral codes that define who we are. It's not perfect, but it gives us a framework to go about and live our individual lives. The Rules of Golf really have to be thought completely through and decisions laid out for various circumstances ahead of time to work properly. If you get caught up in the moment, emotion rules, and fair and equal decisions can easily slip away.

Back to Dustin Johnson. Here's the reason it was absolutely the right decision, (in my opinion):

The PGA at the beginning of the week made it the number ONE item on the local rules sheet that all of the bunkers (1,200 plus) were designed and built as sand bunkers and would be played that way. ALL were considered Hazards. The mistake Dustin made was NOT EVER reading the Local Rules sheet. The other mistake he made was when a Rules official walking with the group (whose view of the lie was blocked by the crowd) asked if he needed any help, and he said no. But to me, (again in my opinion) the biggest problem is that his caddie also did not read the Local Rules sheet. Such a simple thing, that is as much the responsibility of the caddie as it is the player to know the "Conditions of the Competition" for that particular week.

Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung-what a mess. Very controversial. Both signed and turned in their score cards and later admitting they played the wrong ball only after one of their caddies called them out. Both were disqualified- Rule 34-1b/3

Julie Inkster- she had a 30 minute wait on the 10th tee and decided to loosen up using a weighted "donut" on her club. Oops!! She was mad but it was a clear violation: Rule 14-3/10 (use of a training or swing aid during a stipulated round.)

Jim Furyk-he missed his pro-am tee time by less than five minutes and was disqualified from the entire tournament. Really bad timing for him because he was fourth in the Fed-Ex cup race. This decision was made by the PGA Tour governing body. They can and do add their own rules and stipulations to the Rules of Golf to help them govern their business-PGA Tour events. That is absolutely their right. To their credit, when Phil Mickelson complained loudly the inequity of a rule that did not affect the ENTIRE field, but only the 54 out of a group of 122 players the PGA Tour invited that week to play in the Pro-Am, the next week the PGA Tour rescinded this rule for the rest of the year, and will review the fairness of this decision at their yearly meeting.

Zach Nash. I know-Who? It's just a wonderful story. He's a 14 year old that won the boys 13-14 age group at the Milwaukee County Parks Tour Invitational, and a Gold Medal. When he went to share the details of his win to the head pro, he realized he had an extra club in his bag. He knew because he had signed his card, that he violated a rule- Rule 4-4a. To quote him "I knew right away I couldn't live with myself if I kept this medal, so it was pretty instantaneous". He called and disqualified himself and returned the Gold Medal.

The poise and class that Dustin Johnson showed under the pressure involved with losing his chance to win in his second major this year, more than winning, shows the true character of the man. That is what will be long remembered as an example of seeing the big picture, and not letting his emotional disappointment overrule the moment. My other thought is how does a 14 year old already have such perspective that it's not even a thought to give up a hard earned win?.

I would bet when he turned in his trophy he couldn't possibly imagine he would get national headlines for holding up the honor of the game.

Derek Duesler