(Reuters) - Dustin Johnson, back at the scene of the proverbial crime, admits that he has not brushed up on the local rules for the PGA Championship.
Five years ago, Johnson incurred a two-stroke penalty at the final hole when he grounded his club in a sandy area that was deemed a bunker at Whistling Straits, a mistake that cost him a spot in the playoff.
So it was somewhat astonishing on Wednesday when the 31-year-old American admitted he had not read the notices plastered all over the Whistling Straits’ locker room that explain the bunker rule for this year’s PGA.
Whistling Straits has about 1,000 bunkers, but some of them do not have clearly defined edges, so the PGA has told the players that, as in 2010, all sandy areas will be treated as bunkers, whether they have been raked or not.
This means a player cannot ground his club.
“I haven’t looked at (the local rules sheet but), I don’t need to. After what happened, I‘m pretty sure I know what’s going on,” Johnson told reporters on the eve of the tournament, joking that at least he will not have to worry about the trap where he incurred the penalty on the 18th hole five years ago.
“This year I don’t have to worry about it. There’s a grandstand there. Thank you, PGA. I appreciate that,” Johnson said, adding that he did not think about the mistake much except when reminded by the media.
After his gaffe five years ago, Johnson would have been a focus of attention this week anyway, but his meltdowns at the U.S. Open and British Open recently have only added to the attention.
He missed a three-foot putt that would have forced a playoff with Jordan Spieth at the U.S. Open, albeit on a bumpy sub-standard putting surface, and had the halfway lead at the British Open before fading from contention.
With his undoubted talent and almost unmatched length, there is a widespread assumption he eventually will win a major, but there are no guarantees. Just ask Colin Montgomerie, who finished runner-up five times but never won.
Johnson knows he cannot assume one will come his way.
“Pretty much everyone in the field is a fantastic golfer,” Johnson said. “The top 100 guys, every single one of them has a legitimate chance to win. I think that’s why it’s so hard to win a major.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine