Relive Dustin Johnson's Painful Moment At Whistling Straits

Relive Dustin Johnson's Painful Moment At Whistling Straits

Dustin Johnson Whistling Straits 2010
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Check out how a rules infringement cost Dustin Johnson a chance of winning the 2010 PGA Championship.

Relive Dustin Johnson's Painful Moment At Whistling Straits

There have been a lot of controversial moments in golf, and back in 2010, Dustin Johnson added his name to that list with one of the most dramatic and controversial moments in the sport's history.

At the time, Johnson was beginning to really establish himself on the PGA Tour, claiming his third PGA Tour victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the age of 25.

In June of that year, he held the 54-hole lead at the US Open at Pebble Beach, until a final-round 82 dropped him out of the tournament.

Dustin Johnson Whistling Straits 2010

Johnson at the 2010 US Open. He would go on to win the event in 2016. (Photo By Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

But, only two months later at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Johnson (opens in new tab) was back in contention.

Playing the final round, the American made birdies at the 13th, 16th and 17th, to lead by a stroke playing the 72nd hole.

Driving off, Johnson landed in a waste area to the right of the fairway, or so he thought. In fact, what he had actually found was classed as one of Whistling Straits (opens in new tab) near 1000 bunkers.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Johnson unintentionally grounded his club, drawing a two-stroke penalty and thereby missing out on the playoff with Bubba Watson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer.

Dustin Johnson Whistling Straits 2010

Johnson hits his shot into the 18th at Whistling Straits. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images)

Sir Nick Faldo, who was commentating, said: "Under the circumstances of the whole commotion I think any one of us could have made that mistake."

The rule that Johnson broke came into effect six years earlier, before the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Related: Who's Won At Whistling Straits Previously?

At the tournament, PGA officials decided to classify the roughly 1,000 sandy areas on the course as bunkers, even though some resembled patches of dirt no bigger than the seat of a chair. The local rule was clearly posted in the locker room and elsewhere but, by 2010, as Johnson stood on the 18th tee, it had been largely forgotten.

Speaking about the incident, Johnson remarked, saying "there were 1000's of people standing on that hill. There's Gatorade bottles, beer cans, cups, trash. I mean anything and everything is just sat around my ball.

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"I get up there and I never once think that I am in a bunker. I never even thought I was in sand, it just looked like dirt."

In the aftermath of the event, Johnson would go on to win his first FedEx Cup playoff tournament at the BMW Championship, and has since gone on to win two Majors and 24 PGA Tour titles, including claiming a PGA Tour victory in 14 consecutive seasons.

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.


Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.


Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x