Ireland’s Shane Lowry and his title rivals were kept in the dark during the final round at Oakmont when a possible penalty hovered over Dustin Johnson.
The American, who went on to win the US Open for his first major championship victory, had seen his ball move slightly as he lined up a putt at the fifth hole. He called in the match referee to make a decision and was initially cleared of any infraction but as he stood on the 12th tee, later in his round, Johnson was told by officials that the incident was now under review and so with seven holes to play, neither players or spectators were sure of the actual state of play. Lowry had started the last round four clear but had fallen two shots behind Johnson when the incident came under review at the 12th.
Johnson was eventually given a one-shot penalty but had finished with a two-shot lead having birdied the last, his rivals having faded to the relief of championship organisers the USGA.
Speaking yesterday at the R&A’s pre-tournament press conference at Royal Troon, chief executive Martin Slumbers said there would be no repeat at The Open due to a quicker video review process and chain of communication to the chief referee.
“All sorts of things can happen and generally do happen in this game,” Slumbers said. “It is the speed and the clarity with which we respond and I think it’s a function of us sitting here, just about 50 yards away, being able to respond and provide instructions back to the referees.
“The rules meeting was this morning and the process by which the information goes from the walking referees to our rovers and back into the chief referee’s office was discussed, clarified and reinforced. I think we’re pretty good at getting that right. We’ve made some changes in the light of Oakmont and being more prescriptive.”
Slumbers also spoke of his delight that Royal Troon had voted to allow women members, thereby avoiding being dropped from the R&A’s Open rota. Muirfield is due to have a second ballot on the issue later this year having in May failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to facilitate such a change.
The possibility of Portmarnock hosting an Open would also require such a change as the north Dublin links is currently a male-only club. The Open will be hosted by Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland in 2019 and while Slumbers did not foresee any reason why a links in the Republic of Ireland could not also stage the championship following the UK’s recent referendum vote to leave the EU, he did reiterate the R&A’s policy of only awarding the major to mixed-membership clubs.
Asked if there was anything that prevented the R&A from hosting a championship in the Republic of Ireland, Slumbers replied with Portmarnock seemingly in mind.
“Well, at the moment they would do, yes. In the round of our view that we’ll only go to a mixed-gender club.”
The Open’s venues have been announced up to 2019 with the R&A soon to announce its courses for 2020 and 2021, one of which Slumbers said will be at St Andrews and the other in England.