USGA chief executive Mike Davis talked to Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger before he headed to Erin Hills. Not surprisingly, Davis had hot takes aplenty, striking a bruised and defiant tone at times.
While the Jungle Bird destroyer (see below) had plenty to say, we’re going to drill down on some of his remarks about the organization’s effort to bounce back from critical onslaughts in 2015 and 2016.
Here’s what Davis had to say about getting past the debacles of Chambers Bay and Oakmont.
“When you look back at those two, I get it. People came away upset. We’re coming off two in a row where we got a little black-and-blue. But when you look back at the Chambers Bay Open, you had great drama. You had Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. Then at Oakmont, you could not have had worse weather. For Dustin Johnson, for what he was put through and then for him to do what he did, that was awesome. We’ve learned from those events. And we’ve made changes to make sure nothing like that happens again.”
Well, Mike, the only drama at Oakmont was created by the idiocy of the USGA. And at Chambers Bay, players persisted on Plinko-like putting surfaces. What does the quality of the winners matter? Majors produce the strongest fields in golf…winners are almost always of the highest quality. So what?
“We really need a good U.S. Open. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to get it. Going to a new course, there’s more risk. We don’t have experience. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” Davis said. This is true, but you can bet they’d like to be dealing with a known quantity in the wake of the last two tournaments.
Another interesting element of Davis’ remarks: His perspective on the role of the USGA, which we can most closely equate to “parent to an unruly teenager.”
“Golfers need an authority figure in their lives. And we’re that. But we wear multiple hats. We serve the game. In other ways, I don’t like to use the word dictatorial, but that’s what the rules are. We’re saying, ‘If you’re going to play by the rules, this is how you’re going to play.’ And that is hard, because by and large, people don’t like to be governed.”
Now, this may be true for amateur golfers, who, absent the USGA, don’t have a “parent.” But professionals, they have their respective tours to make and legislate rules and conduct tournaments. Players on the PGA Tour resent the fact that the PGA Tour puts on 50-plus tournaments per year with few fiascos, then the USGA steps in for one event, pushes course conditions to the limit in hopes of protecting par and, recently at least, generates controversy.
And speaking of those players, Davis had this to say about the USGA’s relationships with top pros, bemoaning the days when pros used to keep their mouths shut.
“Previously, a USGA official could say, ‘This is the way we’re going to do it.’ And the golfers accepted it. This generation is more apt to push back a little bit. So we have to explain why we’re doing what we’re doing. And then the player might say, ‘I understand what you’re trying to do. I don’t agree with it. But I understand it.'”
What he fails to recognize is, “this generation” of pros on the PGA Tour doesn’t like the USGA and doesn’t feel like it needs the organization’s guidance on matters of equipment, rules, or course setup.
Yes, the USGA is in the cross hairs much more than Mike Davis thinks. He’s right the organization “needs” a good U.S. Open—he just doesn’t know how badly.