What's a 'Bunker'?: The Curious Case of How Dustin Johnson Lost the 2010 PGA Championship and Why the PGA Must Revise the Now Infamous Local Rule at Whistling Straits
Hines Hampton LLP
April 20, 2011
Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 67, Fall/Winter 2011
This article discusses the problematic rule at the heart of the historic controversy that surrounded the 2010 PGA Championship and cost Dustin Johnson an opportunity to enter a playoff to contend for the tournament’s $1.35 million grand prize. I employ general principles of statutory construction to demonstrate how the unique Local Rule that the PGA implemented for the tournament at Whistling Straights impermissibly altered the definition of a sand bunker under the Official Rules of Golf. This issue is important not just because of how the problematic Local Rule harmed Dustin Johnson, but also because the PGA has insisted that it does not intend to change the Local Rule when the PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straights in 2015, or when the PGA hosts the Ryder Cup there in 202'3
The publicity over the controversy last fall was immense, yet surprisingly very few commentators conducted any analysis at all of the interplay of the various rules involved. My article conducts a step-by-step analysis of how the three main rules at issue in Dustin Johnson’s dramatic penalization during the final round of the tournament worked and why the Local Rule presented an untenable conflict with the Official Rules of Golf.
Keywords: Rules of Golf, Golf, Bunker, Hazard, Dustin Johnson, PGA, PGA Championship, Whistling Straits
Date posted: August 15, 2011 ; Last revised: February 9, 2012