Breathe easy, Dustin Johnson.
In a move that players in the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in South Carolina will praise, the PGA of America has decided to make the numerous sandy areas on the Ocean Course “through the green,” rather than bunkers as they were at the 2010 PGA Championship in Whistling Straights.
What this means is that players will be able to remove loose impediments around their golf ball and lightly ground their club with no penalty. If the sandy areas were played as bunkers, players would not be able to ground their clubs and could not move any loose impediments.
It appears the PGA of America wants to make this rule known very early so there isn’t a repeat of Whistling Straights in 2010, when Dustin Johnson was penalized for grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole, leaving him two-shots out of a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.
“With the unique topography of The Ocean Course, natural sandy areas spread throughout the entire property, The PGA of America Rules Committee has determined that all of these areas will be treated alike and played as through the green” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We believe that by establishing the Condition of Play for the 94th PGA Championship well in advance of the Championship it will help players and spectators prepare for this spectacular Major Championship experience.”
This is a prudent move by the PGA and will make for less rules controversies at the PGA Championship this year. The 845,000 bunkers at Whistling Straights — just a rough estimate, give or take a few — were all played under the bunkers as a hazard rule, but it wasn’t clear to all the players and fans. Making the rule this clear removes ambiguity and will allow word to get around to every player in the field.
I am willing to bet one player won’t get the rule wrong ever again in his career: Dustin Johnson.