By Ken Reed
On Sunday afternoon, in the biggest golf tournament in the United States, Dustin Johnson beat the field and the United States Golf Association (U.S.G.A.) rules officials.
In a situation that can only be described as bizarre, Dustin Johnson was told that he may or may not be assessed a penalty after his round was over for something he might or might not have done.
A U.S.G.A. rules official approached Johnson on the 12th tee and told him that he might be given a penalty stroke for something that happened on the fifth hole. It was on the fifth green that Johnson was lining up a putt. As he was about to place his putter behind the ball, it inexplicably moved a partial rotation backwards. Johnson stepped back and called a rules official. After a short discussion, the rules official determined that Johnson had not caused his ball to move and that he could play on without a penalty stroke being assessed.
However, as Johnson continued to play his final round, U.S.G.A. officials were apparently looking closely at the television replay of Johnson approaching the putt in question on the fifth green. They zoomed in to try and get a better look. Still, they couldn’t determine what caused the ball to move. So, on the 12th green, U.S.G.A. managing director Jeff Hall told Johnson that they would watch the video together after the round and then a final determination would be made. Hall made it clear that a penalty stroke for Johnson was now a real possibility. Johnson said he understood and walked to the 13th tee with an added dose of pressure on his mind. At some point, other players in contention for the U.S. Open crown were apprised of the Johnson situation.
Here’s the bottom line: In the country’s biggest golf tournament, on the back nine of the final round, nobody knew what Johnson’s score was. Was he leading? Or tied? Would Johnson or a competitor need a birdie on the final hole to tie or win? Thanks to the U.S.G.A. nobody knew.
“For the next seven holes, Johnson did not know how many strokes ahead of the field he needed to be to claim victory,” wrote Bill Pennington for The New York Times.
“The rest of the field did not know whether they needed to surpass Johnson or tie him to win. How many on-course decisions — by Johnson and others — might have been affected by the notion that the leaderboard scores were just an approximation?”
The rule in question, and/or the implementation of the rule, needs to be changed. What the U.S.G.A. did Sunday was unnecessary, and unfair, to Johnson, the field and fans watching on TV.
Pressure felt during a sports competition might never be greater than it is on the back nine of a major golf championship. For the U.S.G.A. to toss the possibility of a penalty on Johnson’s back as he played his last seven holes qualifies as cruel and unusual in SportsWorld.
The U.S.G.A. eventually gave Johnson a penalty in the scorer’s tent after the 18th hole. Fortunately, for Johnson — and the U.S.G.A. — the penalty stroke ended up not effecting the outcome.
But moving forward, the U.S.G.A. must make the necessary changes to ensure this type of debacle doesn’t occur again.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon