USGA Makes Changes In Hopes Of Avoiding Rules Incident That Marred '16 U.S. Open
The USGA yesterday "wasted no time righting its wrongs" after the '16 U.S. Open rules issue involving Dustin Johnson at Oakmont, according to Josh Benbow of GOLF.com. After months of "assessing what went wrong a year ago the association has instituted changes that it's confident will prevent the championship from the kind of rules debacle that marred the Oakmont Open." At this week's U.S. Open at Erin Hills, the USGA will use "four on-course video review locations equipped with tablets." Those devices will "primarily be used by a mobilized five-person rules committee, which will be led by a newly appointed chief referee" in USGA Senior Dir of Rule & Amateur Status Thomas Pagel. Also new this year, walking referees "won't be assigned to each group." Instead, the USGA will "transition to a 'stationary referee model,' in which officials will be assigned to two or three specific holes instead of a group of players." USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis said, "You would think something like what happened the last couple of years would affect just the championship department, maybe the rules department. But it affects the whole organization. ... So, of course, we want to avoid those things." He added, "We know we've had some issues the last two years" (GOLF.com, 6/14).
GETTING IT RIGHT: In Milwaukee, Bill Glauber in a front-page piece notes USGA officials "acknowledge that they're on the spot to produce a smooth, seamless championship." The last two U.S. Opens "have not gone well for the USGA." Davis said that the results of the last two years have "affected the entire organization." The USGA has come under "heavy criticism before, usually about the way courses have been set up, the speed of the greens or the length of the rough." The last two years, the USGA "got some things wrong." This year, it is "looking to show that it can learn from past mistakes" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/15). GOLFWEEK.com's Jeff Babineau wrote the USGA "seems to have paused, taken a deep breath and listened." Already at Erin Hills -- the organization’s second first-time Open venue in three years -- there "seems to be a conscious effort to err on the side of caution." Fairways are "uncharacteristically wide" and high fescue has been "hacked down." Greens also "will not be sped up to to their limits." Holding onto tradition while "forging into the future isn’t the easiest balancing act." But difficult or not, it is on the USGA to "stay out of its own way this time, and to get it right" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/14).
ADMITTING WHEN YOU'RE WRONG: CBSSPORTS.com's Kyle Porter wrote the USGA "catches a lot of heat, and much of it is deserved." But Davis "said something illuminating" yesterday. Davis: "If we're being honest, yeah, we're human. We know we've had some issues the last two years" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/14). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Ryan Lavner wrote, "Even the USGA concedes that its philosophy has evolved" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/14). GOLF.com's Michael Bamberger wrote the USGA "needs a good U.S. Open." The "last Open-for-the-ages" came in '08, when Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines. The six after that "were fine, but not compelling." Bamberger: "So this one is big, in every way" (GOLF.com, 6/14).
HAVE THEY DONE ENOUGH? GOLFWEEK.com's Geoff Shackelford wrote the new effort by the USGA to address rules incidents "did not entirely settle questions about how future situations will play out." Shackelford: "Even more surprising was the organization’s inability to answer the question on most minds in the wake of 2016 U.S. Open: would the new 'protocols' allow the USGA to more expediently review and notify a player, such as Dustin Johnson, of a possible rules violation?" The USGA "did not commit to whether the tablets would be used for on-course reviews with players." The concepts seem like a "logical reaction to the often-confusing situations related to golf video replay situations." But in practice, the USGA has "no way of knowing if they’ve created a remedy or merely new headaches" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/14).
INTERESTING SELECTION: ESPN.com's Bob Harig noted it was "rare" for the USGA to pick a venue that "had not already staged the championship, let alone a brand-new one." In the previous 20 years, it had gone to a first-time U.S. Open course just twice. So, understandably, there is a "good bit of curiosity and consternation about an Erin Hills layout that is spectacular in its scope and size" (ESPN.com, 6/13). In Boston, Ben Volin writes under the header, "Erin Hills Is Not Your Standard-Issue U.S. Open Venue." The USGA "knows what it likes, and has gone back to the same venues several times." However, just about everything about Erin Hills "breaks the traditional mold." The USGA is "desperate for a good tournament this week," so it is "putting its faith in Erin Hills" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/15).