Dustin Johnson, finally, is a big winner, claiming his first major championship with an exceptional display of skill and composure at the U.S. Open.
The USGA, however, the organization that runs the U.S. Open, looks like a big loser.
The USGA is like the NCAA, a stuffy, ponderous, often clumsy collective that suffers from a near fatal case of overwhelming self-importance. Both organizations do a lot of good things — I can’t think of any at the moment, but I’m sure they do — but those good deeds are often buried under a slag heap of negative press.
Sunday came the avalanche for the USGA, as rules officials informed Johnson on the 12th hole that he could possibly be penalized at the end of the round for his ball moving on the fifth green. This after a rules official walking with the final group decided on the spot not to penalize Johnson at the time.
Johnson went on to win by three strokes after indeed being docked a penalty stroke, so fortunately for him it didn’t matter.
Johnson already suffered one ridiculous penalty in the 2010 PGA Championship when he was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker at Whistling Straits he thought was merely a worn down area of grass. This though fans had been standing in said bunker all week and there are so many bunkers at Whistling Straits they literally don’t know how many exist.
Those penalty strokes kept him out of a playoff eventually won by Martin Kaymer over Bubba Watson.
It’s worth mentioning Watson’s name because USGA Rule 18-2b was changed in large part after the 2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. That year, Webb Simpson called a penalty on himself on the 15th green at TPC Louisiana when he addressed his ball and it moved slightly, imperceptible to everyone but him. Simpson eventually lost a playoff to Watson.
The “Webb Simpson rule” was supposed to take the onus off players victimized by simply getting ready to take a stroke and having their ball move through no fault of their own. Somehow, though, the USGA decided that Johnson had caused the ball to move — hours after the fact.
Fellow players howled on social media. Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont and presented Johnson with a medal named in Nicklaus’ honor that he got with the trophy, said the USGA was “very unfair” to the new champion.
Monday, the USGA issued an apology for the farcical way in which the Johnson ruling was handled.
“Clearly we made a big bogey,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said on Golf Channel.
Davis may not be directly responsible for this ham-handed decision, but he runs the USGA. And he should see to it that no player is ever subjected to such a ridiculous ruling process ever again or be penalized with the loss of his job.
“Either you have (a penalty) or you don’t,” Nicklaus said. “They could possibly penalize him, but if you’re going to do that, they should have penalized him and let him get on with the job.”
Fortunately, Johnson handled his job far better than anyone at the USGA did.
No charges, no surprise
While on the subject of just/unjust rulings, a Monroe district attorney Monday dropped drugs and weapons charges against a pair of Alabama football players, West Monroe natives Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones.
District attorney Jerry Jones (perfect name for a football-related case) said he didn’t want to ruin their lives for possessing a miniscule amount of marijuana and that possession of stolen firearms (the charge against Robinson) is hard to prosecute.
No doubt college football fans from Baton Rouge to Auburn to Fayetteville and beyond will decry what on the face of it looks like preferential treatment. One certainly has to ask if Robinson and Jones weren’t college football players for such a high-profile program — and as such, their case became national news — would the charges have been dropped.
But college football players they are, and frankly if they played for LSU or Auburn or Arkansas or some other school and justice followed the same course, those fans would be celebrating.
Of course, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he will handle the matter internally from here forward. That means don’t expect Cam Robinson to be speaking next month at Southeastern Conference Media Days, but do expect him to be starting at the crucial left tackle spot Sept. 3 when the Crimson Tide opens against Southern California at the “other” Jerry Jones’ football showplace.
It’s as predictable as the dropped charges are.
-- Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.