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Tiger labels ruling 'awful' as USGA apologises

TIGER Woods has described the USGA's handling of the Dustin Johnson rules situation at Oakmont as 'awful''.

TIGER Woods has weighed into the Dustin Johnson/USGA rules debacle describing the handling of the situation as 'awful' just 24 hours after USGA chief Mike Davis publicly apologised over the incident.

Speaking during a Q&A session with Rickie Fowler as part of the pre-tournament festivities at his Quicken Loans National tournament, Woods was asked for his thoughts about what unfolded at Oakmont on Sunday.

"You saw all the players' reactions. It was awful," Woods told the assembled audience.

"Not only to do that to Dustin but to the entire field of players who had a chance to win the tournament. No one had a clue.

"I understand with the NBA and the NFL, you can go back and replay things, but it's more for fun. This determines outcome. I just don’t understand it."

Several of the world's top players have been scathing of the USGA and the way they handled the incident which saw Johnson told on the 12th tee of the final round that he may face a penalty before signing his scorecard.

Rory McIlroy said on Twitter he would refuse to continue play if he had been at the centre of the storm while Jordan Spieth, Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler and others also publicly supported Johnson.

The bulk of criticism has been levelled at the USGA not making the ruling immediately though many are also unhappy with the finding that Johnson caused his ball to move on the fifth green.

"If they're going to make a ruling," Woods said, "and it felt like they were convinced that they were going to make that ruling…then why not assess that penalty on the 12th tee."

For his part Davis appeared on US network Golf Channel just 24 hours earlier after a storm of criticism and vitriol were levelled at his organisation.

Davis asked for a 'mulligan' for what played out at Oakmont on Sunday saying the organisation accepts hey handled things badly.

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"When you look back at the whole issue, you can break it down into two parts,” he said.

“It's a rules of golf issue, of trying to make sure that you apply the rules correctly the way they're written. And we do believe we did that.

"But there's another part of it in terms of the conduct of the championship itself, and that's where we'd really like a mulligan because clearly we made a big bogey."

After Johnson's ball moved on the 5th green in the final round he was given the all clear by the referee walking with his group who agreed the eventual winner did not cause the ball to move.

However, USGA staffers behind the scenes looked more closely at the video and decided the issue needed to be scrutinised further.

After senior staff were called in to review the tape it was deemed a possibility Johnson would be issued a penalty but by this time Johnson was on the 11th green.

Officials broke with tradition by going to the 12th tee to alert Johnson to the possibility he would have a shot added to his score, throwing the standings on the leaderboard into confusion for players, spectators and TV viewers alike.

"That really gets down to putting in essence the championship on the final day almost in limbo to where the players, and in this case Dustin, didn't know where he stood in terms of a score," Davis said.

"That's where, if we could do it again, we should have just applied the penalty once we looked at the video.

"In this case, what it was was a timing issue. The championship deserved to have clarity at that time, and simply put, we didn't provide that clarity.”

While apologising for the way the situation was handled Davis was adamant the referees got the decision to penalise Johnson correct.

"We strongly believe we got the ruling right, we just didn't apply it in the proper timing and sequence,” he said.

“And that's where, as I say, I think we bogeyed, and for that we truly regret and furthermore apologize for the way that was handled."

The penalty had no material impact on the outcome with Johnson's winning margin being reduced from four strokes to three after it was applied.

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