Professional golf – a bunch of amateurs?

After the USGA spoiled the win of Dustin Johnson at the 2016 Men’s US Open by delaying the decision to penalize him for interfering with the ball on a 5th hole put, it’s hard to believe that the organization that hosts the Men’s US Open and the US Women’s Open could do worse. But they just did. Johnson was not informed of a possible penalty until the 12th hole and while he won the Open clearly, regardless of the penalty, he was not assessed the penalty until after he has completed his round, delaying the award ceremony.

The US Women’s Open finished Sunday July 10 with a 3-hole playoff between Brittany (aka Bethany*) Lang and Anna Nordqvist. All even going into the third playoff hole, TV commentators noticed that cameras had caught Nordqvist’s wedge move a few grains of sand before hitting her ball in a bunker on the 17th, the second playoff hole. USGA officials were notified and after review notified Nordqvist of the assessed penalty (two strokes) after she had played her third shot on the 18th fairway. They then informed Lang of Nordqvist’s penalty before she played her third shot. Lang then changed clubs and played a much more conservative shot on to the green, knowing she had a two-shot cushion to win the event. Nordqvist went on to make a mess of the hole while Lang won handily.

The USGA hosts the Opens (Men’s, Women’s, and Senior) because these competitions are open to both amateur and professional golfers., however it’s been a long time since an amateur won an Open. They also control the Rules of Golf, which creates the irony here–both the Men’s and Women’s Opens in 2016 ended in rule infractions and penalties that were handled in ways that were controversial, and reflected badly on the organization.

*The President of the USGA repeatedly called Brittany Lang, the US Women’s Open champion Bethany during the awards ceremony.