Lee Westwood talks for the first time about the USGA’s handling of Dustin Johnson

Lee Westwood is one of the most respected golfers in the professional game. He’s played in nine Ryder Cups, won 23 times on the European Tour, and finished in the top three in nine majors. It’s hard to imagine many golfers can relate to Dustin Johnson quite like the Englishman. That’s why it came as no surprise when Lee sided with DJ during the final day of the U.S. Open, a gesture that really resonates when you consider his disappointing finnish

Lee was steadfast in his insistence that DJ had done nothing wrong. The player’s caddie Billy Foster also offered his support to Dustin as the group tried to get things back on track.

After returning home to England, Westwood spoke for the first time about the matter with Golf Digest’s John Huggan:

“It all started when I asked Dustin to move his marker off my line. He did so, and after I missed my putt he put his marker back and replaced his ball. I went to the edge of the green and watched him take his practice swings to the side of the ball. As he went to put his putter behind the ball, it moved very slightly. I could see that it had because the line on top wasn’t quite straight as it had been when he started his routine. The ball had actually rolled back, away from the hole.

“Dustin actually called it on himself before I said or did anything. But I knew his putter had not been behind the ball when it moved. As far as I was concerned, he had not caused it to move. He certainly hadn’t touched it. I’m not sure how else he could have moved it, to be honest. How does he move the ball if he hasn’t touched it with his putter?

“To be fair, the ball was sitting on a slight upslope, which is why it moved backward. Anyway, Dustin called in the referee who asked if he could think of any way in which he could have caused the ball to move. Dustin said he couldn’t. I agreed with him, and the referee said play on. That was really the end of it as far as I was concerned.

“Or it was until the officials appeared on the 12th tee. They asked Dustin and his caddie to step aside and told them they thought there might have been an infringement on the fifth green. I listened in. They didn’t ask for any input from me. I thought that was strange. I was a bit disappointed, really. I was Dustin’s playing partner. I was marking his card. I had been asked for my opinion on the fifth green. Yet they didn’t ask me anything, even though I was right there.

“When we finished the round, Dustin was taken into the scorer’s hut to be shown the footage. I wasn’t invited to join him. Again, that disappointed me. I had to say to someone, ‘Shouldn’t I be in there as his marker?’ So they took me in after that. It was odd, though. I felt like I should have been involved in every aspect of what went on.

“The whole thing was handled very badly. I don’t think anyone should be treated the way Dustin was. A ruling was made on the fifth green, and that should have been it, cut and dried. He certainly should never have been asked to play the last six holes of the U.S. Open without knowing what the score was. I was thinking going down the 12th, Does Shane Lowry in the next group know where he stands? It was ridiculous.

“Imagine if Dustin had got to the last green and had a putt that mattered. He wouldn’t have known what to do. There was nobody there willing to make the decision. And when they eventually did, they got it wrong, in my opinion. Even with all that time to think about it. The problem lies with the rule. As it stands it is too open to interpretation.

“In the scorer’s hut, Dustin continued to maintain that he had not caused the ball to move. I agreed before and did again after watching the video evidence. Mike Davis was there. He told us, ‘No, there is going to be a shot penalty.’

“We were only in their maybe two minutes. I could tell when I went in that they had made up their minds that it was going to be a penalty. They weren’t particularly interested in anything Dustin or I had to say.

“At that, Dustin said, ‘OK, whatever. Let’s just get on with the prize presentation.’ Thankfully, it didn’t matter to the result. I’m not sure what they would have done if it had mattered. I’m just pleased it didn’t.”

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