Think about this, you're on the golf course with your golf ball resting about four to five feet from the hole, taking some practice strokes and right before you think you set your putter down onto the ground, in a resting position, and you think the ball moves. What do you do, (after you have a mili-second long mini freak out in your head) call a rules official who will help with the ruling or give you the option to play two balls and clear the correct ruling once the round has been completed.
This instance occurred in the final round of the US Open Golf Tournament, one of the major tournaments in golf. Dustin Johnson was sitting on the fifth hole. He called a rules official over they talked for a wile about the incident, and then came to the conclusion that the ball had moved, but not by Johnson, so no penalty would be given and the ball would be replaced. Everything was fine until about six holes later when a rules official approached Johnson on the 12th tee and warned him that due to new knowledge the decision of whether or not Johnson cause the ball to move and if he would be assessed a penalty stroke would be determined after the conclusion of his round.
This all happened as the guy was leading the tournament, with eight holes left to play. Knowing that maybe he lost a stroke in there and could lead to him losing or tying. I mean yes, they did tell him so he could know about that stroke and if he needed to change the way he was playing. But it wasn't fair to him to not know. And many PGA Tour players and past players posted their thoughts online:
Rory McIlroy tweeted: "This is ridiculous.. No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA" and then "This isn't right for anyone on the golf course. If it was me I wouldn't hit another shot until this farce was rectified."
Jordan Spieth tweeted: "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 is a joke?"
There are many other factors that could have been taken into play if matters would have been different at the end of the tournament, from Johnson having a lead or maybe being tied. Going into the tent for the discussion would be much different, and I think they should think ahead and learn from this mistake for future reference.
Obviously players did not like it and many viewers were confused. As a golfer myself, I didn't like what happened; I play all the time and have actually had an instance where my ball moved like Johnson's did, only without it being televised and worth a million dollars. I got a ruling from an official from the state association that was ruling the event and was not incurred a penalty shot. As golfers, we rely on the integrity of others to keep the game what it is. Obviously Johnson is to be commended as he did bring others aware of the fact the ball moved. I imagine a ball moves many times the small amount Johnson's did but the player doesn't give it any thought if maybe doesn't even realize it. I think that they should have stuck to the original ruling, or at the time of the incident had Johnson play two balls, one with a penalty and one without or reviewed it with an answer then. The fact that a ruling can be changed at any time wouldn't be comfortable to me if I were playing for millions of dollars. That's the part I don't think is fair. Other players had instances where the ball moved, and the reasoning is clear but still doesn't add up. Video was watched for someone who was leading, but not for someone who was a good bit off the lead.
But in the end, penalty or no penalty, Johnson still would have won the event to claim his first major, closing with a birdie for icing on the cake. But I think the USGA has some things I think they should make more clear.