Rory McIlroy called the situation "amateur hour". Jordan Spieth said it was a "joke". Rickie Fowler opted for "laughable". There was no reason to disagree.
In a controversial and somewhat baffling decision, the USGA informed US Open winner Dustin Johnson on the 12th hole that a would-be rules infraction from seven holes earlier would be reviewed after Johnson's round, whereupon he could be assessed a one-shot penalty had the potential to change the result of the championship. Fortunately, it didn't.
On the fifth green, Johnson took some practice strokes, then floated his putter behind the ball for an instant, whereupon the ball barely, almost imperceptibly, moved. Johnson called in a rules official and seemed to state that he didn't ground his club, which would have resulted in a penalty had the ball moved after getting set.
https://t.co/Gya6sNgK1V If he hit the ball w/his putter it would roll forward not back to him ...wind...
No penalty— Steven Lisacki (@Lizak187) June 19, 2016
The rules official agreed that Johnson hadn't grounded his club and the incident was forgotten until a USGA official informed Johnson on No. 12 that there would be a review of the situation after the event. At the time, Johnson, who had a rules violation that cost him a chance at the at the 2011 PGA Championship, was up two strokes.
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy both took to Twitter to express their dismay at the treatment of Johnson.
Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) June 19, 2016
This is ridiculous... No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 19, 2016
Jeff Hall, the USGA official who informed Johnson of the possible violation, defended the decision in an interview with the Fox broadcast team, saying that it was only fair for the USGA to tell a player on the course there was a chance he might be penalised after the round.
That way, the player could make decisions about his round knowing that his score might be different (if Johnson thought he was tied, he might lay up on the reachable par-4 No. 17. If he knew there was a possibility he could be one behind, he might try to drive the green).
Of course, the obvious retort is that if you don't know what's going to happen, how can you plan for anything at all? Either assess the penalty or don't. There's no need to wait.
It should be simple: Johnson consulted a rules official walking with his group. That rules official gave the OK that no penalty was committed and that no penalty should be assessed. Voila. That's it. Situation over.
But golf is a sport that loves its rules and has seen a strict interpretation and adherence to all of them. They have cost a player The Masters because he signed an incorrect scorecard. It's had players lose tournaments because viewers at home called up to report violations they'd seen upon replay. Johnson missed a playoff because he didn't know a rule about grounding in a type of bunker.
Luckily for Johnson, the kerfuffle didn't have any impact in the end, as he blocked out everything around him to win the trophy, finishing at five-under for the tournament.
He shot a final round 69 - including the penalty - to finish three shots ahead of Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy.
Johnson erased a four-stroke deficit and finished with a birdie at the last to capture his first major title at Oakmont.
The world No. 6 took the lead with two birdies on the front nine as overnight leader Shane Lowry faltered.