Sitting in a Colorado cabin last week, watching the PGA on TNT, some announcer mentioned that Whistling Straits had so many bunkers, course officials didn't know how many it had.
"Why don't they just count them?" I asked my brother-in-law.
Now we have our answer. Just like Dustin Johnson, Whistling Straits itself isn't sure what qualifies as a bunker, either.
The PGA Championship ended Sunday in nearly the worst way possible for golf. With another ridiculous penalty via an obscure rule that was ambiguous to begin with. The two-stroke penalty, assessed to Johnson after the conclusion of regulation play, did more than cheat Johnson out of the playoff that included Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
It cheated golf fans and those who might be interested in becoming golf fans, which the sport needs all that it can find, in this post-Tiger-dominance era.
Golf culture exasperates most of us who don't get bogged down in its courtly ways. The Olympics finally moved beyond the Athenians. Tennis realized not everyone could play on grass. But golf still wants to act more blue-blooded than a debutant ball.
We get all hot and bothered over soccer every four years and its antiquated ways — no time clock, no replay — but we let golf go on down the road with archaic methods of running its sport.
Golf likes to say its players self-police. But the sport does no such thing. Golf calls for self-policing, all right, followed by a dumptruck of a penalty if the self-policing doesn't please the lords. Golf doesn't self-police; it universally-polices. Everyone, literally, can officiate a tournament, so long as you find a way to get word to the organizers.
Johnson's crime: He grounded his club in the scrub off the 18th fairway. You can't ground your club — place your club on the ground around your ball, before the shot — in a hazard. And a sand bunker is a hazard.
Johnson just didn't realize what the Whistling Straits organizers or PGA officials or ghosts of Old Tom Morris considered a bunker.
Here's the policy that sank Johnson: "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."
Which means your ball might come to a rest under a lawn chair that started out the morning in Waukesha, and it's still considered a hazard.
Here's the problem with that rule. How is Dustin Johnson or anyone else supposed to know whether that patch of ground was designed and built as a sand bunker? Frankly, if I was Johnson, I might have asked the PGA honcho who popped me with the two-stroke penalty, "Did you build that area of land? Did you design it?" If the answer is no, then how the heck do you know?
Yes, yes, Johnson could have asked the rules official walking with his group if the ground was considered a bunker. The same rules official who didn't even see him ground the club.
That bit of information came from television replays.
No matter where you stand on replay review in sport, admit this. Golf's is out of control. At least in football and basketball and now baseball, we get a review when the controversy arises.
In golf, we get a replay ruling whenever anyone feels like it or sees it, whether they're in a trailer at Whistling Straits or on a couch in Chickasha.
Which is an affront to the fan. In sports, like the calls or not, at least we get them and move on. We don't decide competition after the events. At least not since the 1981 Indy 500.
Remember that one? Bobby Unser took the checkered flag. The next morning, race officials ruled Unser illegally passed cars, and Mario Andretti was ruled the winner. In October, the penalty was rescinded, and Unser was declared the winner, 138 days after he crossed the finish line.
As a sports fan, that's unacceptable. What you see is what you have to get. No going back and redoing scores and results. Football has it right on the statute of limitations. If another play occurs before there's a chance to overrule, then play on.
Imagine the damage to golf had Johnson sank that par putt on 18? Johnson celebrating his first major title, being congratulated by good friend and playing partner Nick Watney, flinging his ball to a lucky fan or towards Lake Michigan, hugging his wife if he's married and his caddy either way.
Then as Johnson walked off the green and the crowd headed for the Sheboygan parking lots, being told there was a two-stroke penalty and there would be a two-man playoff of which he could only watch?
Golf likes to believe it embraces the honor system. It does no such thing. It uses the honor system, then resorts to Saudi Arabian law, only instead of a hand cut off for a stolen loaf of bread, it's two precious strokes in a bunker that really was rough.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.