Another controversy for Dustin Johnson as he wins US Open
Farce over punishment for moving ball takes the sheen off a first major victory for the 31-year-old American
Golfer Dustin Johnson claimed his first major tournament on Sunday when he won the US Open at Oakmont, but his triumph is, like his career, a controversial one.
His three-shot victory was overshadowed by a row over a penalty for a moving ball on the fifth green and the actions of the US Golf Association in deciding whether to penalise him.
As Johnson prepared for his putt, the ball moved slightly, but it was clear that it had not been touched.
At the time Johnson was told that he would not be penalised. But six holes later, on the 12th, he was informed that he might, after all, face a penalty. The American was forced to see out the most important round of his career not knowing if he would face a sanction.
The fact he won by three clear shots, even after he was penalised, spared the authorities their blushes, but condemnation has been swift from players and pundits alike.
"Today we should be hailing Dustin Johnson’s major breakthrough," says Ewan Murray of The Guardian. "Instead, the shambles presided over by the United States Golf Association (USGA) for the second major of 2016 will dominate conversation. So it should, as other sports look on and laugh."
The sport shot itself in the foot with an AK-47 he says. "Johnson arrived at the final holes of the biggest round of his life not knowing what his score was. Nobody watching on, including fellow competitors, knew for sure either.
"It was akin to a cup final being halted with five minutes to go as officials tell the teams that the only goal of the match could, maybe, possibly be wiped out at full-time."
Johnson's winning margin spared the USGA "a lifetime of embarrassment", says Rick Broadbent of The Times. "When Tiger Woods is moved to enter cyberspace and call it a farce you know the suits are in trouble."
But it isn't the first time the authorities have tangled with Johnson. "He has an interesting past and was reported to have served a secret suspension for failing a drug test for cocaine in 2014, his third in total," says Broadbent. "We should point out he denied this, as did the PGA Tour, but the risible policy of not naming all banned golfers created a climate of suspicion."
The golfer has also been involved in other controversies. "Most infamous of Johnson's many misdemeanours is his alleged womanising," says the Daily Telegraph, which quotes Robert Lusetich, Fox Sports golf analyst and author of a book about Tiger Woods, writing that it was “not a huge secret that Johnson had affairs with two wives of PGA Tour players – one broke up the marriage”.