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Volume 24 No. 219
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USGA Once Again Talk Of U.S. Open After Third-Round Set-Up

Course setup difficulties were widely discussed by both the players in the field and media
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The USGA "softened the course" for yesterday's final round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills after facing a "torrent of player criticism" following the third round, according to Brian Costa of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The difference was "apparent from the outset, as approach shots stuck on the greens to a degree that seemed almost impossible late Saturday afternoon." Brooks Koepka went on to win his second straight U.S. Open (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/18). Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz said the USGA yesterday "compensated" for Saturday's extreme conditions with a "safe and practical" set-up. Diaz: "They had to be safe because they could not risk another occurrence like (Saturday)" ("Live from the U.S. Open," Golf Channel, 6/17). In Atlanta, Steve Hummer writes there is "nothing at all wrong with a major championship being decided around par or higher." However, you have to "give excellence some chance to breathe." Yesterday, the USGA "got out of the way of its own championship" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/18).

TOO MUCH TO FORGET: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote even a Sunday "to remember couldn’t trump a Saturday to forget." Yesterday's action "could not restore faith being lost in the USGA’s ability to set up and manage this championship." The issues arising Saturday with the USGA "losing control of the course raised even more troubling questions about why this organization’s heavy hand can’t seem to avoid becoming as much a part of the story as the competition." This year’s "failure in the wake of the ’04 debacle at Shinnecock Hills is especially worrisome." USGA CEO Mike Davis "vowed it wouldn’t happen again." Somehow, some way, he "let it happen again" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/17). Even Davis during an appearance on Fox' broadcast "admitted things went too far" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/16). Golf Channel's Ken Schofield said Saturday "was a damaging day for the game at a time when we don't need golf to be damaged." Schofield: "They'll be very, very disappointed, and some of that disappointment unfortunately will linger" ("Live from the U.S. Open," Golf Channel, 6/17).

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: GOLFWEEK's Geoff Shackelford wrote in a "stunning, unimaginable repeat" of the '04 U.S. Open setup "boondoggle on the sandy, windswept grounds, the USGA lost control of Shinnecock Hills" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Costa wrote there was "no single flashpoint for player grumbling on Saturday, though a few mentioned the speed of the 15th green." As the final groups "went around the course, grounds crews watered the greens behind them." The course on Saturday "got worse as the day went on" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/17). GOLF DIGEST's Joel Beall wrote the 15th green "drew considerable ire, as players watched their balls ejected quicker than a high school senior caught sneaking booze into prom" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/16). MORNINGREAD.com's Alex Miceli noted USGA officials parsed their words and said that what happened on Saturday "was not similar to the Sunday" in '04 because they "didn’t need to put water on the greens between groups." Miceli: "I’m sure anyone who was playing after noon would disagree with that assessment" (MORNINGREAD.com, 6/17). Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee: "Two of the last three of the U.S. Opens have been called in to their integrity being questioned. It doesn't happen at any other major championship. It consistently happens here. ... The integrity of the championship was certainly called into question" ("Live from the U.S. Open," Golf Channel, 6/16).

POOR FORM: In DC, Thomas Boswell wrote the USGA displayed "institutional arrogance." Only an organization that "thinks it is more important than the game it supposedly serves would have the gall to set up a national championship on a razor’s edge so narrow that the margin for error" depends on a "few mph difference in how hard the wind blows" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/17). In San Diego, Tod Leonard wrote, "The national championship has to be conducted better than this" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/17). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes the USGA "looked small and stupid by setting the course up the way it did Saturday" (N.Y. POST, 6/18). Also in N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro wrote under the header, "USGA Ruins Another US Open With Out-Of-Line Course Setup" (N.Y. POST, 6/17). ESPN.com's Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote, "I'm now convinced the USGA can't hold its biggest championship without it descending into some version of chaos" (ESPN.com, 6/16).

Difficult conditions again led several golf outlets to question the USGA’s ability to manage the tourney
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

TROUBLES UP TOP: GOLFWEEK's Forecaddie wrote by following a repeat of the course setup difficulties seen in '04 and "blaming winds stronger than forecast -- they were not -- Davis’ credibility took a hit" at Shinnecock '18 (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/17). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard wrote the '04 U.S. Open was a "dark moment for the USGA that Davis and Co. have spent the last decade trying to untangle," which made Saturday’s "miscues so surprising" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/16). In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato writes Davis is a "smart and honorable man and a golf guy through and through." The U.S. Open is "his baby, and it’s his mission to test the players without embarrassing them." He admitted the organization "got it wrong Saturday." D'Amato: "Is it so hard to straddle that line?" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/18). Golf Channel's Chamblee said, "The USGA has lost a lot of the trust of the golf world. ... There seems to be no obvious leadership to me" ("Live from the U.S. Open," Golf Channel, 6/17).

COMPLETE CHAOS: In Newark, Steve Politi wrote the U.S. Open is "supposed to be the toughest major, a grueling deviation from the birdie bonanza that is the average weekend on the PGA Tour and even the three other majors." However, it is also supposed to be "fair, and the final few hours" on Saturday were "anything but fair" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde wrote this year's U.S. Open "took its traditionally savage setup to an even more perverse level." There is a "fine line between humbling the golfers and humiliating them, and Shinnecock may have crossed that line Saturday" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/16). In DC, Sally Jenkins wrote the U.S. Open "likes to style itself as the toughest test in golf, but the third round of this tournament became a test that nobody could pass" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/17). The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote USGA officials were at their "incompetent worst when they set up Shinnecock Hills like a roller coaster, with scores peaking one day and plummeting the next" (AP, 6/17).

NOT SO FAST: Golf.com's Michael Bamberger as part of a roundtable wrote the USGA "did get it right." Bamberger: "The USGA has nothing to apologize for. It was tough and fair and golf is an outdoor game played in unpredictable conditions on an ever-changing field." Golf.com's Dylan Dethier: "The only place they've gone wrong is in appearing to play God with the setup -- they've made themselves easy targets for criticism, even when little is warranted." Golf.com's Jeff Ritter: "It's tough to set a course near the edge without going over it. But this is the U.S. Open's identity -- it's supposed to be brutal. Maybe unfair at times." Ritter: "For this one major, players who want to contend just have to accept it" (GOLF.com, 6/17). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote the idea that the "whole course was unfair or that the USGA somehow shamed Shinnecock is ridiculous." It was "tough, but not impossible." And even the top guys "could have done better with the course and the conditions and the setup than they did" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/17).