Dustin Johnson may again be the victim of a rules infraction while in contention at a major championship.
Johnson may have broken one of the Rules of Golf on the fifth green at Oakmont Country Club in the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open. After missing a 3-foot birdie putt, Johnson was left with a slightly longer par putt. After taking two short practice strokes next to the ball, Johnson moved his putter blade behind the ball, when the ball moved. Johnson immediately stopped and called over a rules official to discuss the situation.
— Steve Anstey (@SteveAnstey) June 19, 2016
From the point of view of former USGA executive director David Fay, it appeared Johnson did not cause the ball to move on his own, which would be a one-stroke penalty. However, on the 12th tee, a USGA rules official went up to Johnson and had a discussion with him. Naturally, the first thought is that, upon review, the USGA deemed Johnson to have moved the ball with his practice strokes. However, Fox Sports reports Johnson told them that the official said they will review that again after the round concludes.
If they do decide Johnson caused the ball to move, which, again, seemed not to be the case from replays, Johnson will get a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2b under the Rules of Golf.
You'll recall at the 2010 PGA Championship, Johnson grounded his club in what was deemed a bunker by PGA of America officials at Whistling Straits, leading to a penalty that forced him out of a playoff ultimately won by Martin Kaymer.
After similar incidents to this one at Oakmont, in 2012, the USGA changed Rule 18-2b to indicate that a player would not be penalized if it is "known or virtually certain" that the player didn't cause the ball to move.
Johnson was backed up strongly by his fellow players on Twitter in the aftermath of the announcement that the USGA is reviewing the penalty.
Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?
— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) June 19, 2016
This is ridiculous... No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 19, 2016
Don't cheat the children USGA!! Let the kids play!!
— Smylie Kaufman (@SmylieKaufman10) June 19, 2016
These are the guys who make our rules? #scary
— Keegan Bradley (@Keegan_Bradley) June 19, 2016
Ultimately, after Johnson had won the U.S. Open by four shots and went into the scoring room to sign his card, the USGA chose to give Johnson the one-stroke penalty. He won the U.S. Open by three shots on 4-under 276.