News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 22, 2010

Rub of the Green: Golf can be roller coaster for young pros

By Jennifer Myers
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Dustin Johnson may be best remembered for his appearances in the major tournaments in 2010, but not because he won. He didn’t win. But he came awfully close.

In the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Johnson’s length and accuracy were on display the first three rounds, leaving him at 6-under par for 54 holes. But 54 holes does not a tournament make. It was the final 18 on Sunday, when he shot 82, beginning the day with triple-bogey, double-bogey and bogey to set the tone.

The television cameras had to scramble to look elsewhere for their story, because it’s just too hard to watch a guy fall apart like that. After the U.S. Open, stories were written with endings such as, “The round is, mercifully, over for Johnson, but the scars from this debacle will be a long time in healing.”

Fast forward to the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Johnson was again in the spotlight because he was close to the lead, three shots back of the leader Nick Watney after 54 holes. I’m sure a lot of people were happy for Dustin, hoping that his playing well in another major would help him get over the blow-up at the Open. Then indeed, on Sunday, Dustin was playing well. He was exciting to watch, with his long drives and nice touch with the short irons that led to some fun recovery shots.

However, the 71 that we all thought he had shot to get him into a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer wasn’t to be. He was taken aside by a rules official, and told that there was a little problem with the way he had played his second shot on the 18th hole. He didn’t realize it, but he was hitting from a bunker, and he had grounded his club, so he was assessed a 2-stroke penalty, moving him out of the playoff and into a tie for fifth place.

Johnson said, “I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker.” Granted, Whistling Straits has over 900 sand bunkers, and this one was less defined than most, as it had been trampled and stomped in by spectators throughout the course of the tournament.

However, while I was watching at home, I saw him ground his club and I said to my husband (who wants it to be known that he HAS beaten me twice recently. In golf that is, but I digress …), “Why did he just ground his club?” because I saw the ball in sand, and thought it probably was one of those many bunkers.

I think if I had been playing, I would have asked a rules official for verification, since one was walking with my group, or, I would have played it safe and assumed it was a bunker and not have grounded my club. It turns out, it was, and the tournament directors had put out a 97-word rules sheet explaining that all areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers [hazards]. 

Johnson hadn’t read the rules sheet. So he was assessed the penalty, missed the playoff, and went away from another major championship in 2010 with a disappointment from what could have been. At least he has made the Ryder Cup team, and hopefully he will play well in that.

This year could also be known as the year the young golfers shot very low rounds, followed by extremely high rounds.

First it was Dustin at the U.S. Open, then 21-year-old Rory McIlroy at the British Open, who opened the tournament with a 63 that tied the all-time scoring record for a major championship, only to be followed by an 80 in very blustery conditions the next day. He had started the day with a two-stroke lead, and ended it 11 strokes back.

McIlroy at least had two more rounds to recover, and ended up in third place for the championship. Watney, a 29-year-old tour “veteran” on the other hand, had led the PGA Championship after 54 holes, shooting a 66 on Saturday by firing at pins and only needing 25 putts, and held a three-stroke lead.

Instead of making the field catch up to him, Watney backed up and let the field just pass him by on his way to shooting a final round 81, putting him in a tie for 18th place.

So don’t let anyone tell you that the pros don’t feel pressure. I think McIlroy and Johnson will win a lot of tournaments in the years to come, and maybe even Watney too, but first they’ve got to pay their dues and learn some hard lessons. And maybe they should hire Louis Oosthuizen’s sports psychologist too!

• • •

Quote of the Day: “The only worse thing that could have happened is if I made that putt on the last hole.” — Dustin Johnson, on learning of his rules infraction and two-stroke penalty that took him out of a playoff for the PGA Championship.

Vigo County Golf Leagues

Fort Harrison 9-hole Ladies — Play of the day: Betty McKee. Low putts: McKee. Low gross: Mid Rusk. Low net: Georgette Arnold. Chip-in: McKee.

Paitsons Eastend Ladies — Standings: Krock Racing 597, Coaches Corner 595, Dorsett Mitsubishi 573, Natalie’s Consignment Furniture 561, Louise’s Fine Dining and Cafe 560, Advanced Chiropractic 545, Baesler’s Market 531, Turner Coach 518. Low gross: Mary, Jan Schnurpel 41. Low net: Hoy, Judy Dick 31. Play of the day: Iva Montgomery. Chip-ins: Dick (10), Donna Sumansky (12).

Terre Haute Saving Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: Lough Bros. 316, Local No. 103 311, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 310, SMC 308, TH Savings Bank 291, Paitson Bros. 284. Low gross: Terry Liffick 38. Low net: Ken Tilford, Steve Swalls 31. American Division standings:  Poplar Flower Shop 356, Salt of the Earth 326, VFW No. 972 324, Spring Clean Car Wash 308, Baesler’s Maret 300, Gurman Container 273, Tabco 271. Low gross: Herb Jones, David Bay, David Thomas 40. Low net: Jeff Griggs 30.

Rea Park Women’s Tuesday 18-hole — Low gross: Stephanie Meyer 83. Low net: Terry Mahalek 64. Birdies: Carolyn Hyde (1), Linda Snow (2), Sharon Horrall (4), Sandy Stabler (14). Chip-ins: Hyde (4), Sharon Hamilton (4), Mary Jean Petty (5), Beth Lowe (10). Low putts: Pat Cannon 27.

First Financial Bank Monday Ladies — Standings: VFW 972 No. 1 592, VFW 972 No. 2 538, Shepard’s Gas 476, Baesler’s Market 438. Low gross: Kay Gard 46. Low net: Iva Montgomery 31. Play of the day: Mary Alice Gambill. Chip-ins: Phyllis Pestoff (8), Mary Lou Newman (2).

Mark’s Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: North Siders 206, Tabco 197, Larry Helman 188, Watts Farms 187, Dew Drop Inn 180, Old National Trust 179, Mattingly Collision 170, Dorsett Mitsubishi 167, Vigo Bowl 158, Rollie’s Pizza 124. Low gross: Brett Horn, Arlo Hawk, Don McCullough 34. Low net: Horn, McCullough 26.

Idle Creek Home Builders Tuesday evening — Low gross: Troy Pless 37. Low net: Lneny isles 31, Bob Mundy 32, Dave Earley 33. Closest to pin: Fred Lamb (No. 12), Charlie Smith (No. 16), Dave Earley (No. 11).

Idle Creek Terminal Sports and Spirits — Low net: Dan Conley 34, Matt Love 36, Brad Binns 36. Closest to pin: Zack Wilhoyte (No. 9).

Idle Creek Tuesday morning ladies — First-place team: Sue Welch, Kate Michaw, Susie Colligna, Debbie Holcomb. Longest putt: Kate Michaw (No. 6). Closest to pin: Debbie Holcomb (No. 3), Sue Welch (No. 9).

Home Builders Tuesday evening — Low gross: Troy Pless 37. Low net: Lenny Isles 31,