FAQs Regarding Dustin Johnson Ruling

What Rule applied to Dustin Johnson’s situation on the fifth green at Oakmont Country Club on Sunday of the U.S. Open?
The Rule that applied in this situation was 18-2: Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.

What was the initial ruling?
When Dustin Johnson's ball moved on the fifth green, he immediately called for the referee to inform him that his ball had moved and to ask for assistance as to how to proceed. Based on the information, the referee determined that it was more likely than not that Dustin had not caused the movement. The referee instructed Dustin to play the ball as it lies (i.e., from its new location), without penalty.

What was the final ruling?
After reviewing the video, the Committee in charge of the competition ruled that Rule 18-2 applied and that Dustin had caused his ball to move. This was based on the fact that his ball had been at rest on the green for a considerable period of time, but moved almost immediately after he grounded his club directly to the side of the ball. 

Why was Dustin not penalized an additional stroke for failing to replace his ball?
Dustin did not incur an additional penalty stroke because the referee instructed him not to replace his ball (see Decision 34-3/7).

Why was the referee's decision on the fifth hole not final?
While some have accurately noted that Rule 34-2 states that a referee’s decision is final, this Rule does not prohibit the Committee from evaluating and changing a decision of a referee; rather, it prohibits a player from appealing a referee’s ruling.

Why was Dustin penalized when he did not address his ball?
Every four years, the USGA and The R&A issue revisions to the Rules of Golf. As of January 1, 2016, Rule 18-2b (Ball Moved After Address) was withdrawn from the Rules. The Rule that was applied in this situation was Rule 18-2, which does not require a player to address the ball for the Rule to be applied. While Dustin did not address the ball, the video revealed that he did ground his club very near to the side of the ball.  

Why are the Rules of Golf so complicated?
We recognize that due to the fact that golf is played outdoors, on a wide variety of courses, and by players using an assortment of different clubs, the Rules of Golf are naturally complex and can be challenging to apply. We, together with The R&A, have been conducting a fundamental review of the Rules of Golf in an effort to simplify and clarify them. We are well along in that process and intend to consult many within the game before implementing any revisions.

Why does the USGA use video review?
At the U.S. Open and its other televised championships, the USGA actively monitors the broadcast in an effort to respond to viewer inquiries and prevent questions and disputes from arising during the competition and after it closes. While we recognize that there are differing opinions about the use of video, it provides us with another method to help ensure the integrity of the championship and protect its outcome.

Why did it take so long to make the ruling?
In hindsight, we acknowledge that while our focus on getting the ruling right included conducting a thorough review of the video with our Committee and later with Dustin, the resulting delay was unacceptable. In recognition of this, we are examining the timing of our video review procedures and our communications with the players so that if we are confronted with a similar situation in the future, we will have a better process.

Could it have been the speed of the greens that caused Dustin’s ball to move?
The speed of the fifth green was one of the factors evaluated by the Committee in determining whether or not Dustin caused his ball to move. Ultimately, after considering all of the factors, the Committee determined that it was more likely than not that Dustin grounding his club next to the ball was the cause of the movement, as the ball moved almost immediately thereafter. For those interested in more information about what a Committee considers when evaluating Rule 18-2 situations, it can be found in Decision 18-2/0.5 in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf book.

Does the player’s intent matter in this instance?
While some Rules do rely on the intent of the player, Rule 18-2 relies on the facts of the situation. It requires that all relevant information be considered and then the weight of the evidence must be evaluated. If it is determined that it is more likely than not that the player caused his ball to move, even if such a conclusion is not free from doubt, the player must incur a penalty.