LOS ANGELES — Dustin Johnson wound up with another bizarre penalty Thursday when his caddie thought his tee time was 40 minutes later than it was, and he had to race up the hill at Riviera just to avoid being disqualified.
Johnson was halfway through his warm-up routine at the Northern Trust Open when a PGA Tour official ran over to the range to tell him he was supposed to be on the No. 1 tee, located up a 100-foot slope next to the historic clubhouse.
“I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'” Johnson said. “I’ve never missed a tee time before.”
He was given a two-shot penalty for not being on the tee box at 7:32 a.m. — his starting time. Players then have five minutes to get to the tee before they are disqualified, and Johnson made it with six seconds to spare.
Johnson made a par 5 on the opening hole and had to put down for a double bogey. He finished with a 2-over 73 and was six shots behind the leaders from the morning groups.
Last summer, Johnson was penalized two shots on the 18th hole of the PGA Championship when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker at Whistling Straits with the gallery standing all around him. The penalty kept him out of a playoff won by Martin Kaymer.
Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, took the blame for mixing up the tee time.
Brown said the tour sends text messages of tee times, and they came in all at once — 8:12 a.m. for the Wednesday pro-am, 7:32 a.m. for Thursday’s opening round and 12:12 p.m. for the second round. Brown said for some reason he had “12” stuck in his head, and when Johnson asked him for the tee time Wednesday afternoon, he told him 8:12 a.m.
“I don’t look at my time,” Johnson said. “I leave that up to Bobby.”
Defending champion Steve Stricker was close to sparing Johnson the mistake. Stricker was done hitting balls and was about to climb the hill toward the putting green when he looked over and saw Johnson empty a bucket of balls on the range.
“He started to stretch and I did a double-take,” Stricker said. “I almost said something to him, but then I figured he had been putting and came down to hit a few more balls.”
The starter announced the group at 7:32 a.m. — D.A. Points also was in the group — but Johnson was nowhere to be found.
“We looked down from the first tee and could see Dustin still on the range,” Stricker said. “We tried to yell down to him, but by then it was too late.”
It didn’t get much better for Johnson when he eventually got to the tee. He said he tweaked his left hip running up the stairs toward the first tee, and it took a couple of holes before the pain went away.
“I’ve got to run up those stairs,” he said. “I get up there on the tee, my adrenaline is pumping, and my hip just locked up on me for a couple of holes. It was tight.”
With a bogey on the second hole, he already was 3 over and still trying to settle down.
“I was pretty (ticked) off on No. 1 and No. 2,” Johnson said, pausing briefly before adding, “and 3, and 4 and 5.”
Then came the par-4 10th, where he took double bogey. That was the last of his mistakes on the course, however, and Johnson finished with a birdie on the 18th hole.
Johnson already has a history of coping with mistakes. Before his blunder from the bunker on the final hole of the PGA Championship, he had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last year until taking a triple bogey on second hole and losing his next two tee shots. He shot an 82 that day, the highest score by a 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open in nearly 100 years.
He has said repeatedly that he doesn’t dwell on mistakes for long, and said this would be no different.
“Just one of those things,” Johnson said. “I’ll get over it.”
Heading to his car, where Brown was waiting in the front seat, Johnson grinned and said, “It might take Bobby a little longer.”