For the second consecutive year, the self-appointed guardians of the game who conduct this country’s national championship have provided the viewing public with proof that they should never be allowed to conduct a tournament or hand out a trophy (have another drink, Ms. Murphy!) again. Seriously, just when I thought Gary Bettman had a monopoly on horrible trophy presentations, USGA President Diana Murphy doubles down on stupid (in my happy place they start getting booed similar to Bettman’s annual rite of passage). At least Bettman is sober when handing out the Stanley Cup. Grab those dandruff-filled blazers and burn them all.
First off, congratulations to Dustin Johnson for having to endure needless mental hardship inflicted by the USGA. The issue occurred on the 5th hole (where he discussed the issue with a rules official AND his playing partner; at which point it should have been done and dusted), and Johnson was notified on the 12th hole that they’d want to take another look at it after his round. Why don’t they just have phones going off in his backswing on every hole (and whoever that turd-wrangler whose phone went off while he was hitting his approach on 18, I hope you get eaten by a bear) or have some drunken rube yell “NOONAN!” while he was putting.
If you look at the video, it’s very difficult to see where the ball moves if you view it at regular focus at normal speed (it does, but it takes a super-slo-mo camera and blowing up the picture to see it move). He didn’t ground his club and he didn’t address the ball. As Frank Nobilo pointed out, there were 3 incidents (including Johnson’s) of virtually similar things happening. One didn’t get penalized even through the player clearly grounded his club behind the ball. In Johnson’s case, he got a rules official involved who said it was no penalty. Right there should have been the end of it (or at worst, stop him after the hole and review it). The player, his playing partner and the rules official all said it was fine. Instead, the USGA, seemingly unhappy unless they manage to piss off the players competing in their national open and 99.99% of people watching, had to get involved after the fact.
What next- an NRL-style (rugby league) bunker where officials will monitor every hole and buzz down if there’s a problem?
Of course, this is the USGA, and having seen their prototype, I’m leaking the following photo of their new Rules Bunker that they will employ for the 2017 USGA Championships.
Rarely, if ever, have I seen a group of his fellow touring professionals take to social media to support Johnson and destroy whatever shroud of dignity that the USGA might have had (after this weekend they’ve nothing left). The worst part is that every one of them was right. I’ve previously voiced that the USGA serves no purpose and should be disbanded, and after numerous screw-ups at their marquee event, it’s time to administer the last rites and send the USGA to the farm. It’s not to say that the USGA should turn their national championship into an event where the winner shoots 22 under to win. Look at the Masters.
The PGA Tour conducts tournaments every week, and somehow, they’re able to conduct tournaments without losing the golf course (that they did lose the course this year at the Players Championship was very much the exception and not the rule). So instead of having people that do this for a living, you have people who do this 1-4 times a year (assuming that they also set up the US Senior Open, the US Women’s Open and the US Amateur), with only one of these events played by the PGA Tour professionals.
In the link (I’m unable to embed the video), Brandel Chamblee goes after the issue with having a fetish over green speeds (he points out that Augusta National, the R&A and the PGA of America don’t do this). Oakmont, of all courses, does not need to be tricked up. After their debacle the last two years (2014 and 2015) of losing the golf course, Oakmont should have been a layup. A course whose natural agronomy has quick greens and thick rough (literally they don’t need to do anything). Instead, the USGA tries to trick the course up because they have to “protect” par (this idea needs to be removed from their collective brains). They wouldn’t have to do any of this golf course kabuki theater of the insane if they had done what Jack Nicklaus had told them to do 30 years ago (go to a tournament ball). I’ll point out that if the USGA had greens running at a more normal speed, then the ball wouldn’t move (try balancing a golf ball on a sloped hardwood floor to get the idea).
Instead, as Chamblee points out, because the USGA didn’t rein in the ball, we’re left with 2 options: 8,000 yard courses or let scores become what they become. On twitter I joked about when we will see a 700-yard par 5 (but I wasn’t kidding). As Gary Player pointed out, the 8,000 yard courses are ungodly expensive (more turfgrass, more water, more fertilizer, more people to care for the course) and are sending the wrong message to the golfing public and running counter to what the USGA was touting a couple years ago.
The R&A has never worried about protecting par. If someone shoots 15 under, so be it. If the winning score is 4 over, then that’s okay as well (the weather can be a huge factor). They don’t have this fetish about green speeds because the wind is a factor so they can’t turn greens into dining tables. If the weather is mild with little wind, then scores are going to be lower. If the wind gets up, then scores will go up.
The PGA of America doesn’t have this fetish over green speeds and protecting par. They set up courses with some rough and some tucked hole locations, but nothing that gets to the absurd. If the winning score is 8 under, then great. If it’s 15 under because guys play lights out, then it’s no big deal (see Valhalla 2014 where you had McIlroy and Mickelson going at it with some fantastic golf).
While I’m having another go at the USGA, while it’s great that they were able to get the course in great shape after the storms on Thursday, it needs to be pointed out that your local golf course does not have a team of over 200 superintendents getting your course ready after a storm. The folks who do this in our area do a great job by and large but there’s a practical limit to what they can do; tournament conditions should not be expected, but they can do a good job of keeping the course playable (and almost always do exactly this).
It’s nice that the USGA apologized on Monday (sort of) for the confusion, but that is literally closing the barn door after all of the horses got out. You can say they avoided a fiasco (Jamie Diaz’ piece is a good read) but this was self-inflicted. You simply can’t tell a player we “might” penalize you for something that a rules official said was fine (once the official cleared him, this should have been the end of it). Johnson’s fellow competitors all thought it wasn’t a penalty, so this idea of protecting the field is nonsensical.
In the meantime, we can only hope that next year the USGA will take my initial call to action, and cease to exist. They serve no purpose that can’t be handled by other entities and their relevance to average golfers like myself is zero.
As for FOX, their coverage is still miles below CBS at their worst (the 3-man booth interviews are terrible, there’s way too much dead air, Joe Buck needs to learn how to make a point and punt to his analysts, dumping Saturday off to FS1 for regular season baseball is absurd at best), but their use of Trackman is very good (CBS could do this tomorrow- would REALLY like to see this at the PGA Championship). If you take FOX production and put it with an NBC/Golf Channel crew you’d have something (and there’s no way NBC would have dumped US Open coverage on the weekend to a cable outlet).