Twitter: GeoffShac
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Golf is the only game in the world in which a precise knowledge of the rules can earn one a reputation for bad sportsmanship.



U.S. Open: "It was clearly an institutional breakdown in communication and procedures."

Watching how replay has been used in other sports (particularly baseball, football, tennis), most sports fans have accepted the use of technology to get calls right. We've seen so many calls either confirmed or overturned for the betterment of the competition we are watching, and, let's face it, in a way that has made the sports more entertaining. Yet the USGA ruling at Oakmont stands as the most confusing, unnecessary and frighteningly dangerous use of video replay most sports fans have seen, even if it was an accurate interpretation of the Rules of Golf "Decisions".

So no matter how great a story Billy Hurley is, or what a magnificent weekend golf enjoyed with a combination of old (Ernie, Vijay, Henrik) and young names (Rahm, Lydia, Ollie) playing so well, the U.S. Open continues to be the 19th Hole subject of discussion.

And I'm still waiting to hear how it gets better for the USGA.

The SI/ roundtable is not the place for the folks in Far Hills to look.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It was a brutal public relations hit for the USGA, and Davis’s quasi-apology didn’t really help. I got the first interview with him at Oakmont. Davis was upstairs in the locker room changing into his tie for the trophy presentation and I pounced on him. At that point DJ was on the 16th hole and Davis still hadn’t seen video of the incident! He was just going by reports from other staffers. It was clearly an institutional breakdown in communication and procedures. This will all lead to some soul-searching and clearly the USGA needs to overhaul how it handles things on the ground at big tournaments. 

That's just bizarre.

Bamberger tries to see nuance and both sides and comes closest to defending the decision, even though he's no in agreement:

In my opinion, the videotape was completely inconclusive and I would have not accessed Johnson the shot, but to reach another conclusion is entirely reasonable. Now if you want to say there should be a new rule by which these minute movements shouldn’t matter, go ahead and try to draft such a rule. But right now, the rule is that any movement must be accounted for and the USGA was trying to do right by Johnson and the rest of the field. That is its obligation. The rest -- including Tiger and Jordan and Big Jack himself -- is noise. The USGA is not in the public-relations business. Its purpose is to stage a championship and assure that the rules, which it tries constantly to improve, are applied fairly to all. 

And the last word from Gary Van Sickle speaks to what I sense many golfers feel:

Nice of Davis to apologize for delay in penalty assessment, a terrible mistake. But by Monday, he had plenty of time to recognize that Hall and Pagel had wrongly assessed a penalty and ignored USGA’s own definition that “unless the facts show that a player caused the ball to move,” there is no penalty. I lost a lot of respect for the USGA on this one. This can’t happen again.


"Story Of The Year" Billy Hurley Wins At Congressional

What seemed like a ho-hum week on the PGA Tour turned into an epic, emotional and intriguing mix of youth, age and sentimentality merging into the best tournament of the season.

Photo by JD CubanIt wasn't just that former Navy man Billy Hurley III won in his native D.C.-area almost a year after his father went missing and eventually, took his life, and did so with his career at a low point where he had limited status. He did it with a sponsor's invite by Mike Antolini of the Woods Foundation, in front of understandably emotional family and friends, all while holding off HOF's Els and Singh, and new young-gun Jon Rahm.

John Strege with some great backstory info on Hurley.

Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post on the win. And this quote from Hurley says so much about the emotions he had to battle en route to victory.

On Saturday, as he held the lead at Congressional, Hurley noticed that there were policemen following him, protecting him, so to speak. “Obviously I think about my dad a lot,” Hurley said after his round. “I was walking from 9 to 10, and I’ve never really had a whole lot of police officers following my group. You know, I’m not like that cool. But playing in the lead, they have a couple police officers following you around. It dawned on me, ‘Hey, this is what my dad did.’ He walked inside the ropes and did this at Presidents Cups [and other Washington-area events].”

The chip-in, which is enough to make anyone believe in the Golf Gods.

The full round highlights:

The day was big for those hoping to play in the next major. Hurley, Rahm, Singh and Harold Varner (!) made it to Troon thanks to their great play at Congressional.

For Immediate Release:


26 June 2016, Bethseda, Maryland, United States: Billy Hurley III, Jon Rahm, Vijay Singh and Harold Varner III have qualified for The 145th Open at Royal Troon after today’s final round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Quicken Loans National was the seventh event in The Open Qualifying Series, which gives players the opportunity to qualify for golf’s most international major championship at leading Tour events around the world.

The four players will now compete against the world’s best golfers to become Champion Golfer of the Year when The Open returns to the famous Ayrshire links for the ninth time from 14-17 July, 2016.

Meanwhile, six players also qualified for The Open through the European Tour Race to Dubai and the PGA TOUR FedExCup rankings. In the Race to Dubai, England’s Andrew Johnston, Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, South Korea’s Soomin Lee, and Joost Luiten from the Netherlands all earned a place at Royal Troon, while Americans William McGirt and Smylie Kaufman booked their place through the FedExCup.

At the Quicken Loans National, American Billy Hurley III earned his first PGA TOUR title and a place in The 145th Open after a tremendous performance in front of a raucous hometown crowd. The former US Naval officer thrilled spectators by chipping in at the 15th and following that up with a 27-foot birdie putt on the 16th green to close out the tournament with a two-under-par 69.

The 34-year-old finished on 17-under-par and will now challenge for the Claret Jug for the second time after making his Open debut in 2014 at Royal Liverpool where he finished tied 64th.

Vijay Singh, who made his first appearance in The Open at Royal Troon in 1989, will play in his 25th Championship and 89th major after finishing runner-up behind Hurley. The 53-year-old Fijian’s best finish was tied for 2nd place with Thomas Bjorn in 2003 at Royal St George’s. At Congressional, Singh closed out his round of 65 with a birdie at the 18th to finish on 14-under-par for the tournament.

Former no. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ Jon Rahm booked his spot at The Open after tying for third place alongside Bill Haas, who has already qualified for the Championship. The 21-year-old Spaniard, who was making his professional debut this week after finishing as low amateur at last week’s US Open, posted a final round  70 to finish on 13-under-par.

American Harold Varner III also qualified for The Open after nudging out European Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari, who was in position to scoop the fourth qualifying spot after finishing 8-under-par. But a final day score of 70 saw him finish in seventh place at 9-under-par behind Ernie Els and Webb Simpson who were both already exempt for the Championship. He will now make his Open debut at Royal Troon.


Video: Tiger Talks Return With CBS, Not Sounding Too Close

Sporting his Sunday red (!?), Tiger Woods talked about his return to golf at the Quicken Loans and said he wants to play this year, but doesn't know if he will. He's trying to get into golf shape and perhaps most encouraging was that he sounded a little more like a competitor than a fan, almost seemingly bored by the proceedings which were a wild mix of crazy veteran stories and a heart-string puller in Billy Hurley.

Kevin Maguire summed up the comments here and also mentioned Woods' early week remarks.

Anyway, here's the interview with Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo.


Good USGA News: Record Low Audience Saw '16 Fiasco!


Who would have thought it'd be positive for the U.S. Open to "enjoy" the lowest four-day viewership since records have been kept starting in 1995. But given things like the rules fiasco or the President struggling to speak during the trophy ceremony (but not impaired, according to the USGA, via Steve Elling), maybe this news is positive!

SBJ's Austin Karp reports:

The 2.34 million viewers is down from 3.5 million viewers last year, when coverage aired in primetime from the West Coast, and also down from 2.44 million viewers across NBC and ESPN in ’14. Fox finished with 5.4 million viewers for final round coverage on Sunday, which saw Dustin Johnson take home his first major. That figure is down sharply from 6.7 million viewers for Jordan Spieth’s win in primetime last year, but up big from 4.6 million viewers on NBC for Martin Kaymer’s runaway victory in ’14.

The chart:


Roundup: Trump Opens Turnberry In Glorious, Bizarre Fashion!

Ok, glorious might be strong, but the weather was lovely, the bagpipes flowing and the course looks sensational. Not that anyone noticed with the bizarre Brexit results and an even more bizarre stunt overshadowing the proceedings.

There is Golf Channel's video report on the opening. And an AP report on the day, including quotes from Trump as they toured the course. Though few had anything to do with golf.

A gallery of the people and those hats made by the staff!

For the non-golf reaction, Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post says Trump's energy level was down, perhaps after a protester interrupted the opening speeches' beginning. The Secret Service could not have been pleased.

The next day Trump flew to Scotland’s opposite coast, to the golf course he built on sand dunes north of Aberdeen, then had dinner with media giant Rupert Murdoch. At the gate of the Trump International Golf Links, security turned away journalists from The Washington Post, which has been banned from all of Trump’s events for nearly two weeks, BuzzFeed and Politico, along with MacAskill.

Those who were allowed inside followed Trump on a tour of the course, stopping at holes 10, 13, 14 and 18 for questions.

British prankster Lee Nelson snuck into the press conference posing as an employee who’d forgotten to hand out a new line of red golf balls. They featured a swastika.

On a much lighter note, the halfway house looks pretty incredible.

As does the new 9th hole:

The full press conference…



Slugger: USGA Made Right The Call(s), Rule Needs To Change

Ken Willis talks to PGA Tour VP of rules and competitions Slugger White, who says the USGA got the Dustin Johnson penalty right, got the notification of the players correct, and also wishes the rule was changed ASAP. He also says the green speed chase must be evaluated, calling this the "root of the problem".

Willis writes:

“If it had been Thursday, Friday or Saturday, they would’ve met him in the scoring area after his round and taken him to see the video and go from there,” said Slugger. “But in the final round, you have to tell him because he has to know his strategy coming down the stretch. They told every other player in the field about Dustin’s situation, too, which I think was good.”

The underlying issue here is the modern love affair with lightning-fast greens, which invite the inadvertent movement of golf balls that are sitting atop the marble-like surface. There’s been plenty of blow-back on green speeds in the wake of DJ’s high-profile situation, and maybe something good will come out of it, because ridiculous green speeds have hurt golf at all levels.

Unless and until there’s a philosophical shift on green speeds, Slugger would love to see the rule amended again to allow for the replacement of a ball that moves for any reason without being touched.

“I’ve been beating that horse for years,” he said.

It's fascinating how the rules community continues to see a violation while most golfers I've talked to can't see anything close to evidence of Johnson causing the ball to move. Nor can many even make sense of the entire episode more than a week later, other than to express disdain for the rules of golf.

White's comments also contradict the view of most players that the PGA Tour rules staff would have ruled differently.

Michael Bamberger tried to make sense of it all and while he concludes the rules officials did what they had to do, this does not mean it came without consequences.

The movement of the ball had no practical influence on whether Johnson was going to make that short putt or not. But it had the potential to have a profound influence on who won the 116th U.S. Open. It was a perfect storm. It was a study in conflict and conflicting agendas and incomplete evidence. It was, and remains, a mess. The Rules of Golf seek to turn all matters into black-and-white cases. But then real-life oddness raises its head and bedlam ensues. Something made that ball move and someone was going to pay for it. In the end, both the USGA and its newest champion did.


Video: Youthful (16 Months) Passion For The Game!

Sam Blewett is 16 months old and will do anything to have a small, white object to whap around.

And at this pace, he may be needed for Team Australia in Rio!


IOC Member: No Golf If It Can't Deliver Top Players

Let's reluctantly look past the part where his organization chose Rio over, say, Chicago, putting the entire credibility of the Olympic Games on the line. Especially after Friday's buried lede: the Rio Olympic drug lab has just been suspended by WADA six weeks ahead of the Games.

Duncan Mackay reports that IOC member Barry Maister feels golf should lose its place if it can't guarantee the participation of top players.

"I think it is appalling," Maister, winner of an Olympic gold medal in hockey at Montreal 1976, told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB.

"I don't like it and I don't think the sport should be allowed to continue in the Games under that scenario.
"Once they've got in, they have got to deliver.

"Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second or third rate players, is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic Movement."

"The Olympics is about the best, and they pledged the best.

"Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there."

Any IOC board that can't deliver high expectations for a safe Games may also want to look within before speaking out.


State Of The Game Podcast 67: Roger Cleveland

The master club designer and collector joines Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and myself to talk about his career in club design, the state of the game and the 2016 U.S. Open.

The show page.

The MP3 version. And of course you can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes.



The Church Pew Bottle Opener Lives On! 

By popular demand, Seamus Golf's Church Pew bottle opener, made in a numbered edition of 145 and sold out early in U.S. Open week, is coming back for more!

Akbar Christi sent out a note to his Seamus golf mailing list today.

You can order here and also see the opener being made here.

We featured the opener last week at and on Golf Channel.


"Oakmont incident inevitable as ruling bodies let golf fly out of control" 

It's both heartening and amazing that the game has reached a point we are seeing the governing bodies taken to task in mainstream publications over their push for green speeds to mask the distance explosion.

Ewan Murray of The Guardian files an excellent must read on the various green speed fiascos we've seen of late, capped off by the Oakmont rules mess that was undoubtedly a product of the speed push.

Murray writes:

Golf’s ruling bodies also opted to ban the anchored putting stroke, and were right to do so, but their sleeping at the wheel for a far more serious equipment issue is a glaring contradiction. It does nothing to douse the argument that manufacturers have too much power. This resonates in junior golf; emerging players do not shape shots – and can’t anyway, given the way balls are constructed – because they have no need to. Blasting it high and long generally, not quite exclusively, is the answer. At members clubs everywhere, sadly, discussions over how to make modifications aimed at offsetting how far the ball now goes are commonplace.

Golfweek's Bradley Klein says "we're facing a crisis in green speeds" and explains how it's not surprising to see a ball like Dustin Johnson's move given the low cutting heights. Noting that the Oakmont crew, which had the course in perfect condition, was merely following orders, Klein writes:

At those speeds, we have approached an end point in what is humanly controllable.

At most courses, players who demand faster green speeds are not playing by the Rules of Golf. Most golfers cannot handle speeds of 11 or more.

What the USGA confronted cannot be understood simply as a rules violation. It’s an asymptotic moment in the evolution of green speeds. We have reached the end of the green-speeds arms race.


"Sorry, USGA, Apology Not Accepted"

The furor refuses to subside...

Gary Van Sickle says "the eyeball test and the weight of the evidence says" the still "got it wrong, wrong, wrong" in his at column summing up the continued furor over Dustin Johnson penalty.

Johnson was sure he did not cause the ball to move. In golf, that’s the end of it. But a couple of guys in a TV booth decided he should be penalized.

Hall and Pagel called Johnson a liar. They didn’t use those words but by assessing a one-shot penalty, they branded him a liar. And Westwood. And the walking rules official.

I don’t believe any of those three are liars. And I don’t see what evidence there was to levy the penalty. Pagel said that if it there was even a 51 percent chance that Johnson might have caused the movement, then a penalty must be assessed.

Fifty-one percent? There is no such thing. That’s like being 51 percent pregnant. You either are or you aren’t.


Irish Olympians Criticize McIlroy Over Olympic WD

Luke Byrne reports for the Independent on Irish athletes criticizing Rory McIlroy in a variety of tones for passing up his Olympic opportunity over the Zika virus.

Irish Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy said making it to the games to represent her country was her dream and she was unconcerned about the Zika virus.

Murphy, who will represent Ireland in the laser radial event, pointed out the Olympics are taking place in the middle of winter in Rio - when there will be fewer mosquitoes.

"I've been in Rio four times in the last seven months. There are not that many mosquitoes in the city.

"The Olympics are in August, which is the middle of winter for Rio. The Zika virus is not really a concern for me," she said.

"The Olympics are my dream, I've been working the last few years of my life for this. Most athletes would be the same," she said.

Boxer Darren O'Neill, who just lost out on a team berth, was even more brutal in his assessment.

We discussed the news on Golf Central and as I noted, McIlroy's interest in being a world ambassador had to make his decision more difficult.


Scottish Golf Time! Pound Falls Against The Dollar

Since Scotland overwhelmingly supported remaining in the EU and now are suffering a 10% (at least) decline in the value of the pound against the dollar, I can think of only one way to support the Scots: book a golf trip!

The Scotland Golf Travel page and podcast run by Ru Macdonald is a fine place to start, as are Graylyn Loomis' itinerary suggestions.


Terrible Flooding At The Greenbrier

Ryan Ballengee at GolfNewsNet with the details of terrible flooding at The Greenbrier resort, where the PGA Tour is headed in less than two weeks for its ow-annual stop.

The resort's owner is not concerned with the status of the resort as West Virginian's battle with life-threatening matters caused by the rains.

“It’s like nothing I’ve seen,” said Greenbrier owner Jim Justice in a Thursday statement. “But our focus right now isn’t on the property, the golf course or anything else. We’re praying for the people and doing everything we can to get them the help they need.”

Greenbrier resident Bubba Watson Tweeted this video:


Dottie: USGA, Stop Messing With U.S. Open Courses

Of course we all know the reason the USGA has to meddle, massage, tinker and push its U.S. Open venues to the brink. But it's enjoyable to see so many people becoming aware of why it's happening: they've lost control of distance and it's the last resort.

Dottie Pepper at lays out the various steps the organization has taken in recent years to emasculate venues, and she's seen enough.

If the new mantra is being "innovative," why not be truly innovative and stop messing with these courses? Move the tees back to the tips, let mother nature dictate the condition of play (we don't play golf in a dome after all) and let a four-day slugfest produce a winner.

People aren't glued to the World Series, NBA Finals or Super Bowl to watch the referees or hear the messaging about changes to the field of play and its sustainability. What's not sustainable is 150 plus superintendents keeping Oakmont in form for U.S. Open week.

What is the harm in checking our egos and messaging at the front door and simply letting the best players in the world showcase their talent to identify the champion?

Absolutely nothing.


Trump In Scotland: Reuters, WaPo Analyze His Projects

On the eve of Donald Trump's arrival at Turnberry to re-open the famed course in the middle of the campaign, both Reuters and the Washington Post look at the finances of each course's purchase and development. Both stories conclude that Trump's efforts in Scotland have not been great successes as businesses but the stories seem a little light on long term vision for how a golf course purchase and re-investment potentially could pay off.

Given the lack of promised development at Aberdeen, the conclusion by the Washington Post's Jenna Johnson seems reasonable, but the Reuters piece by Tom Bergin case leans hard on Turnberry and Doonbeg, which seems wildly premature given that the courses haven't been re-opened to golfers with the new, uh, vision. (I'm hoping to report from Turnberry in a few weeks, but everything I've seen and heard looks like spectacular work by Mackenzie and Ebert.)

Jenna Johnson's story from the Washington Post included this:

According to reports filed with the British government, Trump said the Aberdeen course has lost more than 4.71 million pounds since 2012 — the equivalent of $6.9 million at current exchange rates. British authorities were told that the course lost 1.14 million pounds, or about $1.67 million, in 2014 alone.

Yet in a July 2015 disclosure filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Trump valued Aberdeen at “over $50 million” and put his income from the course at $4.2 million between mid-2014 and the end of 2015.

A similar pattern holds for records filed for his Turnberry golf resort on Scotland’s west coast, which he will also visit this week, and at a third Trump course in Ireland’s County Clare — millions in losses reported in overseas records, millions in profits reported on U.S. forms.

Trump told Bloomberg News, which first reported on the gap between the reports, that the amounts he listed on his U.S. filings were “projected future income.”

Trump’s son Eric, who takes the lead in golf course developments, said in an interview that the U.S. disclosure forms report gross revenue, not net income. He also said the British and Irish courses are losing money only because the Trump Organization is spending aggressively to turn them into leading international resorts.

“We are incredibly pleased with Aberdeen,” Eric Trump said. “. . . It is the most beautiful course I have ever seen. It is a spectacular project that will continue to be the gem of Trump Golf for years to come.”

From Bergin's story:

How great his golf course investments have been is debatable. A Reuters examination of them shows that Trump has likely lost millions of dollars on his golf projects. The analysis shows high costs and modest current valuations. Using conservative estimates of the amount Trump has spent, he may be breaking even or making modest gains; on higher estimates – based on whatTrump has said he is spending – he’s losing money.

Trump disputes the analysis. He said Reuters’ calculations overestimated what he had spent and underestimated the value of his investments. He declined to provide figures for his expenditure on courses or their current or future market values.

“The golf courses are doing very well. Every one of them makes a lot of money,” said the author of the “Art of the Deal.” “They are not really golf investments, they’re development deals.”


Photos: Oakmont Before/Afters And Through The Years

Sadly lost in all of the news this week was another successful showing for Oakmont. Many of you heard about the tree removal project and wanted to see good before-after images, and I didn't have a good link to send you to.

So here is Dunlop White's piece about that origins of the design, the evolution and tree work at Oakmont, with a link to a slideshow giving impressions of the improved the look.

The post-Fownes’ era coincided with the emergence of a nationwide tree-planting trend. Oakmont was among hundreds of golf clubs that believed high volumes of newly planted trees could enhance the golf course aesthetic. Oakmont officials responded by planting thousands of ornamental saplings in virtually every open space on the golf course as part of their newly adopted orchard program. At the 1973 U.S. Open Championship, Oakmont's official press release revealed that 3,200 trees had been added to the golf course.

Here is the slideshow.


Photos: Behind The Scenes After DJ's U.S. Open Win

On this week's ShackHouse, my co-host made a profound observation about the last hole Dustin Johnson played at Oakmont: he hit one of the greatest last-hole shots by a champion, even after having to back off due to noise.

The USGA's effort to penalize him overshadowed a lot, from an epic performance by the course maintenance crew, to a heroic effort by Fox working silly hours, to so many players having breakthrough weeks.

And most of all, Dustin Johnson's win was a career defining week after many letdowns. It was hard to detect the joy and satisfaction for him, but Darren Carroll's post-victory slideshow is a great reminder of what the win meant to the Johnson team.


Rory's Rio WD: Why Are Golfers The Athletes Most Fearful Of Zika?

And to be more specific: male golfers.

Looking at this For The Win list compiled before Rory McIlroy reversed course just weeks and days after saying he was all in, men's golf is easily the sport with the most WD's from the Games over Zika virus.

Granted, golf is played in a setting where the few mosquitos sticking around in August might be setting up shop. Not one prominent athlete outside of golf and competing close to water has withdrawn over Zika.

With Rory citing Zika so soon after suggesting it was not a huge issue is, for someone who was so passionate about the Olympic opportunity, likely to create the possibility of several more players on the fence to withdraw. Brian Keogh at the Irish Golf Desk talked to Ireland's team captain Paul McGinley, who spoke to McIlroy last night but was not expecting the announcement today, explains that he was not aware of what changed in the last ten days.

The most likely scenario: locker room chatter at Oakmont and a lack of reassurance that the golfers will be safe. And continued disdain for the schedule. And no peer pressure to play had their been a team format.

Still, it is hard not to conclude that the expansive world schedule in golf and the lack of any need for golfers to view golf as the ultimate in their sport, is making the decision easier. I explained some of the dynamics that went into not rearranging the schedule when Adam Scott withdrew.

The IGF's Ty Votaw addressed the news on Morning Drive.

The full IGF statement:


The IGF is disappointed with Rory’s decision but recognises that some players will have to weigh personally a unique set of circumstances as they contemplate their participation in golf's historic return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with the Zika virus foremost among them. It is unfortunate that the Zika virus has led to Rory's decision to withdraw from the Olympic Games, knowing how much he was looking forward to taking part. As we have stated before, the Olympics is the world's greatest celebration of sport and we remain excited about golf's return after a 112-year absence. It will truly be a special occasion for our sport and we are confident that the 60 men and 60 women who will represent their respective countries will find it an experience they will cherish forever.