Golf rule altered following Dustin Johnson's US Open controversy


The controversial rule that led to Dustin Johnson being penalised at this year's U.S. Open has been altered by golf's law-makers.

Johnson claimed his first major title at Oakmont in June, but his breakthrough victory was somewhat overshadowed by the United States Golf Association's (USGA) handling of an incident that occurred on the fifth green during the American's final round.

The ball of Johnson appeared to move fractionally prior to a putt, but the eventual champion was only informed seven holes later that he may be subject to a penalty, having initially been absolved of responsibility by a referee.

That resulted in the farcical situation of Johnson's final score being unknown as he finished his round, prompting strong criticism on Twitter from the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. However, Johnson's subsequent one-stroke penalty proved immaterial as he finished four shots clear of the field.

The USGA and fellow governors the Royal and Ancient (R and A) have now confirmed players will no longer be penalised should they accidentally cause a ball to move on the putting green.

David Rickman, executive director - governance at the R and A, said of the new local rule, which will come into effect from January 1: "For the past several years, as part of the R and A and USGA's rules modernisation initiative, we have considered the penalty for a ball that is accidentally moved on the putting green.

"Both rules committees agreed that it needed to be changed and decided that in this particular case it was important to act now, through a local rule, rather than wait for the next overall set of revisions to the rules of golf."

Thomas Pagel, senior director, rules of golf and amateur status at the USGA, added: "Eliminating this penalty responds to the concerns we have heard from both golfers and committees about the difficulties in applying the current rules when a player accidentally causes a ball to move on the putting green.

"This change is a good example of the type of rules modernisation changes we hope to implement after completing our fundamental review of all of the rules. We are looking for ways to improve the rules by making them easier to understand and apply."