SBD/June 14, 2017/Events and Attractions

Onus On USGA, Exec Dir Mike Davis With U.S. Open This Week At Unproven Erin Hills

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Erin Hills is the only U.S. Open host in the Midwest until at least '25
Golfers in recent years have been "vocal in their disdain" towards the USGA, putting the "onus on the governing body to get it right" at the U.S. Open this week at Erin Hills, according to Bob Harig of ESPN.com. Players have called out the USGA in an "unprecedented way" and have "become fond of a derogatory description of the U.S. Open: a professional event run by amateurs." The portrayal is a "bit unfair," yet it is "clearly the USGA's show, conducted in a different manner, typically with far sterner course conditions than are seen throughout the year." The USGA "always must walk a line between a course that plays too easily and one that becomes unfair." Harig noted with so many "historic and tested courses to choose from, the USGA is seen as tempting fate by going to a new venue for the second time in three years" after it played the '15 event at Chambers Bay outside Seattle. USGA Exec Dir & CEO Mike Davis "acknowledged there is risk at Erin Hills, especially so soon after taking the U.S. Open to another unproven venue at Chambers Bay." Davis: "In hindsight, if we're being 100 percent transparent, having two new sites in three years ... we should have spread those out a little bit more. I'm not saying anything derogatory about Erin Hills or Chambers Bay. It's just the newness part. Maybe it's once every five, six, seven, eight years. I think the timing of these, they came on board at almost the same time" (ESPN.com, 6/12).

FAIR DRAW? The USGA was criticized for the green conditions at Chambers Bay, and last year for its handling of a rules situation with leader Dustin Johnson in the final round at Oakmont. Davis said, "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. ... Then at Oakmont, you could not have had worse weather." He added of the incident with Johnson, "We've learned from those events. And we've made changes to make sure nothing like that happens again. We really need a good U.S. Open. But that doesn't mean we're going to get it" (GOLF.com, 6/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa notes the USGA since last year has "tried to repair" its credibility -- and its "relationship with Tour players -- in several ways." Along with the R&A, it "eliminated the penalty that nearly cost Johnson the title" last year. Davis has "met personally with a handful of players, including a February lunch" with Rory McIlroy. He and other USGA officials have "also gone on a mini-road show, appearing twice in recent months at meetings of PGA Tour players to explain how they spend the revenue the Open generates." Davis: "A lot of things we do, people don’t even know about. But if we didn’t do those things, you’d see a lot of aspects of the game that just wouldn’t be as good" (WSJ.com, 6/14). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote this U.S. Open could be Davis' "defining moment in his reign over this championship." There was a "huge risk for Davis in taking the championship to Erin Hills, but there’s potentially a huge reward, too." Either way, Davis' fingerprints will be "on this venue more than any since he took over course setup" in '06 and took over Exec Dir duties in '11 (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/12). 

FILLING THE TIGER, PHIL ABSENCE: The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote the "intrigue" of this year's tournament "goes beyond the mystery of a new course." It will be the first U.S. Open in 25 years that "doesn't have the names Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson among its starters" (AP, 6/10). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein noted Mickelson's expected withdrawal would "mean the first major championship without him or Woods" since the '94 Masters. Greenstein: "Is it any wonder you can still order tickets without going through StubHub or SeatGeek?" As of Monday afternoon, the USGA website "had single-day passes available for every session but Saturday" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/13).

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART LANDS
: In Chicago, Len Ziehm wrote the USGA usually takes the U.S. Open to "tried-and-true courses" like Oakmont, Pebble Beach or Torrey Pines, which "sets Erin Hills apart." The USGA has "stayed away from the Midwest for too long." The last time the tournament was played in the Midwest was in '03 at Olympia Fields near Chicago, and this week "marks the first time the tourney has been played in Wisconsin." If a Midwesterner "wants to see a U.S. Open without taking on significant travel, this is the year." The tournament has assigned sites through '25 and "not one is in the Midwest" (DAILYHERALD.com, 6/12). Davis said, "When we look at U.S. Open sites, first and foremost, I can assure you we are looking at the golf course. ... Erin Hills checks other boxes." In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato noted 11 of the last 13 U.S. Opens have been "held in New York, California, Pennsylvania or North Carolina" (JSONLINE.com, 6/11).
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