Armchair Refs Take Note: There Are No Sand Hazards At Kiawah Island

In case you tuned in late and can’t believe you witnessed Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley, and many other contestants in this week’s PGA Championship taking practice swings, picking up pieces of lint, and grounding their clubs in the sand, the PGA Tour implores you: put down the phone!

Much has been made of the fact that the PGA has eliminated the possibility of another Dustin Johnson-like brain cramp on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island by adopting a local rule that defines all “sandy areas” as waste bunkers. Had that been the case in 2010, when DJ rested his club on what he assumed was a trampled down patch of dirt on the PGA Championship’s final hole at Whistling Straits, he would have qualified for a spot in a three-hole playoff with Bubba Watson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer.

Despite his mishap, the determination to play the Pete Dye course this week without any sand hazards was not a knee-jerk reaction to Johnson’s costly error. In fact, it was in keeping with other tournaments that Kiawah Island has hosted, including the 1991 Ryder Cup matches, the 2005 PGA Club Pro, and the 2007 Senior PGA Championship.

The PGA even trotted TNT analyst Billy Kratzert out to the course to offer a primer on the rules in hopes of forestalling any twitchy Twitterati from blasting out tweets and jamming the phone lines. Kratzert’s message, essentially, was that players may remove shells, practice swings, and touch their clubs behind their balls without punishment.

“So when you see players in the bunker...grounding their club,” Kratzert intoned, “do not pick up that phone and call in; it’s not an infraction.”

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