Dustin Johnson of the United States clinched his maiden major title with victory at the U.S. Open amid farcical circumstances at the Oakmont Country Club in Philadelphia.
Johnson, who has leapfrogged Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy into third place in the world rankings as a result of his triumph, was given a one-shot penalty after he had completed his round as he finished on four-under-par. It followed a controversial incident on the fifth green, where he was alleged to have made his ball move when he took two practice putts. As Johnson prepared to address the ball, it moved slightly and he claimed he was not at fault.
Following consultation with a United States Golf Association (USGA) official, he was cleared of any rule infringement, with playing partner Lee Westwood of England agreeing the American had done nothing wrong. A separate rule official then approached Johnson seven holes later, on the 12th tee, and told him they needed to check video evidence of the incident once he had finished his round. This meant Johnson and the rest of the field, including overnight leader Shane Lowry of Ireland, were unsure as to how many shots he would be penalized causing sweeping confusion among players and pundits alike. The USGA eventually decided to uphold the penalty, meaning he signed for a one-under-par round of 69 when it should have been a two-under 70.
The conduct of the USGA, who are the organizers of the second major on golf’s calendar, was heavily criticized by a number of leading names during and after the debacle which overshadowed the final round. McIlroy, who missed the cut, described the incident as “ridiculous” and accused the USGA of being “amateur” while also suggesting that he would not have hit another shot in his round until the “farce was rectified” if he had been involved. World number two Jordan Spieth was also heavily critical, labeling the USGA as a “joke”.
Despite the furor, Johnson remained calm and finished ahead of Lowry, who carded an eight-over round of 76 to end three shots adrift of the American. Johnson’s compatriots Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy were involved in a three-way tie along with Lowry, with the trio all recording one-under-par.
“I told myself I would deal with it when I was done,” Johnson told Sky Sports.
“I was playing good and I blocked it out and focused on each shot.
“I didn’t let it bother me.
“I knew when they walked up to me on the 12th tee when they said they had been watching it.
“But who cares?
“It doesn’t matter anymore.
“I’m glad it didn’t matter.
“That would have been bad.”
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz