Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tiger Woods says he would've been more vocal had he been in DJ's shoes

Tiger Woods was blunt in his assessment of how the USGA handled penalizing U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson in the final round at Oakmont on Sunday.

"I watched, and as I was alluding to last night, it was awful because no one -- no one knew what was going on," Woods said.

On the fifth green in the final round, Johnson was preparing to putt a 6-footer for par. He took two quick practice strokes next to the ball, then moved his putter head in back of the back. Before soling the putter, the ball moved slightly. Johnson recoiled and called over an official to explain the situation. Johnson said he did nothing to cause the ball to move. Playing partner Lee Westwood agreed. The walking referee concurred and said there should be no penalty under Rule 18-2. 

However, on the 12th tee, USGA officials told Johnson they were reviewing the situation and could penalize him a stroke for the ball moving if they deemed he was "more likely than not" to have caused it to move. They also said the decision on the penalty could wait until the end of the round.

The USGA's decision to wait to penalize meant Johnson had to play knowing he might have to win in regulation by two to avoid a playoff or yet another heartbreaking loss in a major. 

Woods said that was ridiculous.

"D.J. didn't know how he stood. The rest of the guys who were ahead of him didn't understand what was going on. The final group didn't know what was going on. No one had a clue," Woods said.

"Am I tied for the lead, am I leading the tournament, am I one back or am I tied? No one understood where they stood in the tournament so that determines what you're going to do. Am I going to challenge the flag, try and get back there, am I going to play conservative, do I try and hit driver off 17, where do I -- so much depends on scenarios and where you stand to dictate how you play."

Ultimately, Johnson played with a string of pars, except one bogey, before coming to the 18th with a two- or three-shot lead. He made birdie on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 feet to lock up a win, no matter what happened. Then the USGA inexplicably gave Johnson the penalty anyhow to reduce the winning margin to three.

"I didn't think it was fair to anybody," Woods said. "It wasn't fair to Dustin, it wasn't fair to other players who had a chance, it just wasn't fair to anyone."

Woods said he wouldn't have been as quiet about it all as Johnson.

"How I would handle it?" Woods said. "You know, I'm a little bit feistier than Dustin so I think I probably would have said a few more things during the round."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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