SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) - The bunker is gone, and Dustin Johnson has moved on.
But in returning to Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship, Johnson faced questions one more time about his infamous error in the sand on the final hole that cost him a spot in a playoff in the 2010 championship.
For the most part, Johnson has shrugged off the queries and memories. He delivered a couple humorous zingers Wednesday, and said he only thinks about the mistake when asked.
“I mean, so, I don’t know how many times that is,” he told reporters.
A smiling Johnson added: “This year I don’t have to worry about it because - there’s a grandstand there. Thank you PGA. I appreciate that.”
And yes, he does know the rules now about the countless bunkers at the links-style course.
“I haven’t looked at them but I don’t need to. After what happened, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on,” he said, drawing more laughs.
This was serious business five years ago. Zach Johnson, who had a neighboring locker, recalled this week consoling his upset colleague afterward.
Dustin Johnson had been assessed a two-shot penalty on the final hole after grounding his 4-iron in the sand to the right of the fairway, not aware he was in a bunker. He had a one-shot lead when he teed off from the 18th hole.
Johnson missed a 7-foot par putt to slip into a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson- until he learned he had let his club touch the sand during his pre-shot routine. The two added shots dropped him to fifth.
Kaymer beat Watson in the playoff for the Wanamaker Trophy that year, though in a way, it’s a footnote to the drama that surrounded Johnson.
“Well first of all I need to say it’s a little sad that every time … we talk about the PGA Championship here it’s like that Dustin threw it away,” Kaymer said. “Of course, if (he) would have made the putts on 18 and if he would have not gotten the penalty stroke, he would have won the tournament.”
The confusion over the bunker was understandable. Johnson has recounted how he saw fans standing there, with a Gatorade bottle and beer can in the bunker.
But at Whistling Straits all sandy areas are considered bunkers, even if they’re outside or near the ropes. The PGA said it has posted notices this year, just like it did in 2010, along with notifying players before they arrived at the course.
A rules official accompanies each group on the course, and can confirm what is and isn’t a bunker. Most players have said they will use caution and have read the rules.
The actual “Dustin Johnson bunker” itself is no longer visible, with a viewing area built atop it. Organizers have said it was part of a broader plan to bring more corporate hospitality on to the course, and not to intentionally cover up the spot.
For Johnson, the broader focus might be on winning a first major.
Johnson has come close a couple more times after the mistake in 2010, most recently at the U.S. Open in June at Chambers Bay. He missed a 12-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole, then missed a 4-foot birdie putt to finish one shot behind Jordan Spieth.
Any pressure wasn’t getting to him on Wednesday.
Johnson said that he was “just chilling” when asked about his emotions before a major. On the first tee on Thursday, Johnson said he will be nervous - but that’s how he is like at every event.
“So, but as far as right now, no, I’m feeling good,” he said. “Ready to get going, but no really emotions right now.”
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