A sport seeking to emerge from dark age prejudice has again proven itself to be petty and unfathomable, and the USGA were saved by the eventual champ playing one of the finest closing stretches in the majors history
Let us briefly visit a land where common sense persists. There, a significant sporting occasion would not be thrown into utter disarray in front of a worldwide audience at its key phase. There, a golf ball placed on a surface closely resembling a marble fireplace in texture may well move. There, the glaring evidence of no advantage either being sought or claimed would never result in a penalty.
Back in the real world of golf, a parallel universe sadly exists. Today we should be hailing Dustin Johnsons major breakthrough. Arguably the most gifted American golfer of his time has finally offset years of underachievement, with the kind of victory he should have been accustomed to long ago. Instead, the shambles presided over by the United States Golf Association( USGA) for the second major of 2016 will dominate dialogue. So it is appropriate to, as other athletics look upon and laugh.
To the watching world the scene was ludicrous. To recap, a rules official notified Johnson that he would not be assessed for a penalty stroke after the ball moved when he addressed a putt on the 5th green. On the 12 th tee, Johnson was told a decision would be made at the end of his round, forcing the player to completed the final six pits not knowing whether the assessment would take place or not. When the round was completed, Johnson was penalised a stroke and signed for a one-under-par 69, to win by three shots.
A sport seeking to emerge from dark age prejudice are again taken an AK-4 7 to its foot, proving itself petty and unfathomable. Johnson arrived at the final pits of the biggest round of his life not knowing what his rating was. Nobody watching on, including fellow challengers, knew for sure either.
It was akin to a beaker final being halted with five minutes to go as officials tell the teams that the only goal of the match could, maybe, maybe be wiped out at full-time. Horse racing holds stewards enquiries, but not after the leading jockey has been informed three furlongs from home. Golf induces its return to the Olympics the summer months; even the IOC would create an eyebrow if a Johnson-esque saga were to be presided over by the USGA and its chums at the R& A. Suffice to say, it wont be.
There has long been a key problem with the US Open; that of the man running the tournament, Mike Davis, carrying a higher profile than the majority of members of the participants. Davis had enjoyed or suffered one of his quieter tournaments before the epic farce that dominated Sunday afternoon.
The USGA had both a problem and a victory. Johnsons refusal or, being cruel, inability to properly castigate them for the backdrop to his victory was a cause for governing body relief. Unfortunately for the USGA, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and others were going full throttle in criticism of what was unfolding at Oakmont. These players are standard bearers , not prone to ranting but capable of swaying general opinion. Good on them for using their respective platforms.
In this instance, the trio scarcely needed to. Johnsons scenario can be split into two, neither of which does the USGA any credit.
To start, the ruling itself. The USGA was adamant in the purpose of explaining the affair that it sticks exclusively to rules which cannot be altered. That is undermined altogether by the scores of occasions in which discretion has been used; quite often, ironically, to protect golfing legislators. Tiger Woods and the Masters of 2013 springs immediately to mind.
The next time those presiding over golf preach about integrity and trust as a foundation and they will the only answer is wild laughter. Johnson, his vastly experienced playing partner, Lee Westwood, and the well-respected caddie Billy Foster were all perfectly content that the US Open champ didnt cause his ball to move during the course of its now infamous episode on Oakmonts 5th green. As, of course, was the USGA referee, called upon immediately by Johnson.
The subsequent assertion that Johnson did trigger the tiny ball motion makes a mockery of the evidence of those involved at the time, including the referee. It also could never maybe be proven that Johnsons laying of a putter adjacent to the ball entailed it changed position by a matter of millimetres. Where, legitimately, could this allegation end? That someones size 12 feet forced a change in ball position while they were walking around to line up a putt? A lawyer would drive a coach and ponies through the USGAs assumption and it was an assumption just as a player such as Spieth would inevitably have vehemently challenged it even in victory.
Elements of witticism understandably derive from the USGA being so relaxed about the driving of golf balls by Johnson and others well in excess of 300 yards, to an overwhelmingly negative effect for video games, while a hairs breadth green move ensures a need to summon the blazers around a high definition television screen.
Worse still was the USGAs treatment not only of Johnson but others looking to lift the trophy. The administrators permitted confusion to reign. The justification for this was nonsensical; that some sort of post-round meeting with Johnson was essential before a sanction could be issued. It was glaring by the time Johnson was spoken to on the 12 th that the USGA had decided upon a penalty and, of course, that nothing the player told would alter their plans. Even at that juncture, seven pits on, face could have been saved and the tournament permitted a standard conclusion if one stroke had been added to Johnsons score.
Johnson, of course, did the USGA a massive favor. Person never famed for mental strength shut out background noise to ultimately play one of the finest closing stretches in US Open history. The penalty didnt matter. Johnson didnt truly care about accepting it, even if the fact it was applied at all to the inevitable victor was hilariously po-faced.
Golf deserves better than to be carried into disrepute by those is expected to be its custodians. Just because Johnsons overriding emotion was relief, the position he was placed in shouldnt be forgotten in a hurry. Amateurs running professional pursuits has never seemed like a logical alliance.
Read more: www.theguardian.com