Bernard Gallacher: USGA ‘lucky’ that it was Johnson and not Montgomerie on the 12th tee

Golf Care, 21st June 2016

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Golf Care caught up with its ambassador and three-time Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher to get his reaction to the huge controversy surrounding the final round of the US Open at Oakmont. Bernard discusses the USGA’s decision making throughout the week and how that affected the rest of the field.

It’s a shame to end such a great tournament with controversy, but did you agree with the decision to award Dustin Johnson a one-shot penalty?

“I can only go off what I can see on television. Sky slowed it down as slow as can be and they said under no circumstances did he actually affect the ball. As Luke Donald said on Twitter, the ball moved because of the speed and the slope of the green.

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I think the USGA handled it very poorly. When they look back at it in the post-match debrief, I think they’ll be pretty embarrassed about this. I think the judge is lucky that Dustin Johnson is such a relaxed and laid back guy that it didn’t affect him. You could see on the tee, he just accepted it and got on with it, because that’s his nature. I was thinking to myself if that was Colin Montgomerie or somebody like that, there could have been a major explosion on the tee!

That not only potentially affected Dustin Johnson, not knowing what he had, but it could have affected people like Shane Lowry too, because he didn’t know either. It put doubt in the players’ minds.

They made it very difficult, and that was the second poor decision made by the USGA this week. When rain stopped play in the first round, they wouldn’t give the players time to go back onto the practice ground to hit a few balls. That was another bone of contention of the week. All in all, the USGA, who only really run one big tournament a year, got two big decisions wrong this week and that mustn’t happen again.”

As a player in Dustin’s position, was the correct decision made in terms of waiting until the end of his round to review the incident, rather than to resolve the issue on the 12th tee?

“Well, Paul McGinley, Ewan Murray and the others in the commentary box were saying that they really need to get a decision now. Why can’t they take him into the television cabin, show it to him and hear what he has to say? It’s too important an event – it’s the US Open after all.

A player would need to know. They’re very fortunate it was Dustin Johnson. He really was also unlucky last year at Chambers Bay: he had a 12-foot putt to win and he 3 putted. He was also unlucky in the USPGA at Whistling Straits when he grounded his club in an area that nobody even knew was a bunker, which denied him a playoff.

There have been a lot of things happen to him in recent years in majors that would have affected any other player, but haven’t affected him.”

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Dustin Johnson being informed on the 12th tee that he may face a one-shot penalty following his final round.

What are your thoughts on the professionals being so vocal in protest at the USGA’s decision making?

“I think the players on social media were putting themselves in Dustin’s shoes. Every player wants to know where they stand on the tee. It was like a no-decision: we think we’re going to penalise you, but we’ll let you know at the end. Even the decision by the chief rules official said, “There’s a good chance that that practice swing you had caused the ball to move.”

That isn’t good enough. It’s got to be 100%. I mean, it’s not like a good chance or 51% that you might have moved the ball. Players were concerned all week about replacing the ball on the greens, that’s why the players hold the club above the ground. When they hold it above the ground they’re not deemed to have addressed the ball.

The rules official that was walking around had actually cleared him of any infringement. Lee Westwood said as far as I’m concerned he didn’t address it or affect it, and the rules official agreed and that should be the end of the matter.”

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All smiles at the end for Dustin Johnson as he won the 2016 US Open at Oakmont by three shots.
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