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USGA regrets ‘distraction’ caused by delayed ruling

The USGA, which slapped Dustin Johnson with a controversial one-stroke penalty Sunday, issued a statement on Monday saying it regretted “the distraction” caused by the way it handled assessing the penalty on the eventual winner.

It was the United States Golf Association’s attempt to quell the backlash from their decision to wait until the end of the round to penalize Johnson.

“Upon reflection, we regret the distraction caused by our decision to wait until the end of the round to decide on the ruling,” the statement read.

“It is normal for rulings based on video evidence to await the end of a round, when the matter can be discussed with the player before the score card is returned.

“While our focus on getting the ruling correct was appropriate, we created uncertainty about where players stood on the leaderboard after we informed Dustin on the 12th tee that his actions on the fifth green might lead to a penalty.”

Johnson won his first major championship at Oakmont Country Club by three shots, but the final two hours of the tournament were played under a cloud of uncertainty.

On the fifth hole with a three-foot putt for par, Johnson grounded his putter as part of his routine. He put his putter behind his ball, which moved ever so slightly.

Johnson and early leader Shane Lowry were tied as late as the 13th hole.

A USGA rules official determined quickly that Johnson had done nothing to cause the ball to move and Johnson played on without being assessed a penalty.

As he built up a lead over Lowry, another USGA official approached him two hours later while on the 12th tee to say the incident on the fifth green was going to be reviewed and a penalty was still possible.

By not making a decision sooner, the USGA opened the door to criticism from many of Johnson’s golfing peers like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods.

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