Rules Junkie: Why Dustin Johnson’s Caddie Jumped In A Lake

TPC Sawgrass is a tricky and difficult golf course as many PGA Tour players were reminded of this past week at the Players Championship. With water coming into play often, strategically placed and penal bunkers on nearly every hole coupled with tournament conditions and pressure, the Stadium Course can have its way with the best in the world.

What you don’t need when trying to win the “fifth major” is a rules gaffe that could potentially cost you two strokes and a boatload of money, which nearly happened to Dustin Johnson and his brother/caddie, Austin, on the fourth hole. 

Kevin Casey of has the details of what happened. 

Dustin, who started on No. 10, found the very left side of the putting surface at the fourth hole at TPC Sawgrass’ Players Stadium Course. He got up to the green, marked his ball, went to toss it to Austin, but…

“Dustin went to throw it to me, and as he took his hand back, it kind of slipped out of his hand,” Austin said. “(And then) the ball just kind of bounced in (the water).”

If you think the Johnson brothers could just laugh at the mishap and retrieve another ball from the bag and finish the hole from where DJ had marked it, you’d be in violation of Rule 15-2, which forbids a player from substituting a ball into play. 

15-2. Substituted Ball

A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a Rule that permits the player to play, drop or place another ball in completing the play of a hole. The substituted ball becomes the ball in play.

If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules (including an unintentional substitution when a wrong ball is dropped or placed by the player), that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule and, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball.

The Rules state that a player must hole out with the same ball played from the teeing ground unless it is lost, hit out of bounds or substituted, all of which carry a penalty. As a result, Austin Johnson hopped into the lake, retrieved Dustin’s original ball and avoided the two-stroke penalty for substituting a ball for the original ball in play.

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

Related Content: 

Rules Junkie Reader Question: Dew-Covered Sand On The Green

Rules Junkie: Building A Stance In a Bunker

Rules Junkie: Jordan Spieth Gets Ruling On Putter Question

Rules Junkie: Dealing With (Lateral) Water Hazards

Rules Junkie: Russell Knox’s Sandy Situation


Be sure to follow us on Twitter @SwingbySwing and Like Us on Facebook.


Coronavirus: Are You Allowed To Play Golf In Your State? (Golf Courses Open & Closed)
14 Players Disqualified From Mini-Tour Event For Rules Breach
Course Closed Due To Overcrowding, Lack Of Social Distancing