In 2010, Dustin Johnson famously lost the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits because of an errant tee shot on the final hole and a misunderstanding of exactly where his ball had landed.
Johnson had a 1-stroke lead heading into the 72nd hole when his tee shot landed in one of the 967 bunkers at Whistling Straits. He thought he was in a “waste area.” He was wrong.
“It didn’t look like a sand trap to me,” Johnson said at the time. “It didn’t even look like sand. It looked like dirt. It’s where the crowd was standing, and generally the crowd doesn’t stand in a bunker.”
Johnson ultimately bogeyed the hole which would have still been good enough for a tie and a spot in the playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, who went on to win. However, Johnson was famously greeted at the green by a rules official who informed Johnson that he had grounded his club in a bunker, that is he illegally touched the ground with his club before taking his stroke, and was forced to take a 2-stroke penalty.
Fast-forward five years and the PGA Championship has returned to Whistling Straits. The rules have not changed but the course has thanks to some craftiness by the PGA.
According to the PGA, “all areas of the course that were designed and built as bunkers, filled with sand, 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, trash and tire tracks during the play of the championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”
In other words, it is impossible to tend to nearly 1,000 bunkers with so many fans walking around.
But what about the famous bunker on the 18th hole? It is still there, but it is now partially, and conveniently, covered by a VIP tent.
While it is not completely covered, it is almost certainly inaccessible to the golfers as the uncovered portion of the bunker is behind the VIP tent. Here is how that area is now viewed from the tee box:
Of course, that is not going to help the golfers on the hundreds of other bunkers on the course, but it might provide a little relief on the 72nd hole on Sunday.
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