Sports

Picking Splinters: Bunkers, Goalies & K-Rod

Mike,

Way I see it, Dustin Johnson should have been in that playoff to with the PGA Championship. I mean, just because he grounded his club in a tiny little pit of sand that had been trampled by the gallery? C’mon! There’s no advantage to that. They should have overlooked it and let them decide the tournament in a playoff.

Signed,

60 percent of the nation

I was pretty surprised to see a SportsCenter poll return the figure that comprises our magical mail writer’s signature the other night. Only 40 percent of those completing the poll thought Johnson should have been punished for breaking the rules and touching his club to a tiny patch of sand in the final round of the PGA Championship. The infraction resulted in a two-stroke penalty that dropped him out of what would have been a three-way playoff for the title.

The rule that you can’t ground your club in a hazard is a well-known one in the golf world. This particular instance was actually a little odd though, since the “bunker” in question was really a patch of sand the size of a litter box that was well away from the fairway. However, a series of supplemental rules added specifically for this tournament at Whistling Straits and posted inside the clubhouse locker room, defines such a lie as a hazard:

“All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship.”

Odd? Yes. But it’s the rule. So now we come to the next part of the argument of Senor 60 Percent: That the intent of the rule should be followed rather than the letter of the law. Well, the intent of the rule is that no player should gain an unfair advantage on the course. I can tell you for a fact that grounding your club in a hazard better informs a player’s swing. If you can feel how hard-packed or loose the ground is, it makes a difference.

Should that particular lie have been defined as being in a bunker? That’s irrelevant to me. The rules defined it as such and that’s all there is to it. Johnson himself admitted he should have paid more attention to the supplementary rules.

It’s unfortunate that Johnson had his fate decided in such a manner. However, it was in accordance with the rules by which every other golfer had to abide. It may have been a sad outcome, but it was the right one.

Mr. Hume,

I keep seeing that the Caps are rumored to be a fit for Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi. How much weight do you put in that rumor?

Alex O.

Gut answer? Not much.

I think the rumor persists because Washington has enough cap room to fit Niemi next season and some hockey pundits think a Cup-contending team like the Caps shouldn’t be relying on a relatively inexperienced tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. But I have two problems with this. First, experienced or not, the Capitals love both Varlamov and Neuvirth who have been sensational in their development to date. Can they carry the Caps to the Cup? I don’t know, but I do know people were asking that exact same question of Antti Niemi last March.

Look, just because Niemi won the Stanley Cup – with the NHL’s best defensive corps and a slew of top two-way forwards in front of him – that doesn’t make him Patrick Roy. I don’t see him as an upgrade over either of the Caps’ two young goalies, particularly since it would eat up crucial cap space that could be used to bring in a final missing piece around the trade deadline. I don’t see them as a player for Niemi.

Hume,

What do you think of Francisco Rodriguez missing the rest of the season after injuring his thumb while punching the grandfather of his children after a recent Mets game?

Omar M.

I think Mets fans won’t be able to dip into the Kevin Brown vs. the Wall well to insult Yankee fans anytime soon.  I also think this is the sort of thing that happens to the Mets. And only the Mets.