The USGA and R&A want to make sure what happened at Oakmont at the 2016 U.S. Open never happens again. So, they’ve announced what will colloquially be known as the Dustin Johnson Rule.
Starting Jan. 1, 2017, the USGA and R&A will implement a local rule that amends the way Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are handled. For Johnson, it was Rule 18-2 that applied to him when his ball moved on the fifth green in the final round. He believed he didn’t cause it to move with his actions, meaning he would have been exempt from a penalty. However, the USGA reviewed the video after the ruling on the ground and came to the determination that Johnson did cause it to move, assessing a much-maligned one-stroke penalty.
Fortunately, Johnson played on, winning the title anyhow, but the USGA knew it had to do something. This change makes it as clear as the Rules of Golf can get about fault, while also injecting more intent into the Rules.
The local rule reads in full:
Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.
The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.
Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.
The part about the ball marker is key, too, as a Champions Tour event was decided by a ball dropping accidentally from a player, causing the marker to move and leading to a one-stroke penalty.
More Rules changes are coming, we hear, and this is a good start toward a more common-sense rulebook.