Twitter: GeoffShac
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In the beginning there was golf, but later there were the rules of golf, and then the trouble started. For it is a regrettable fact that although rules are necessary in organized sport, their introduction tends to mar the careless rapture of pastimes unhampered by rigid conditions.



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.


First Review Of Tommy's Honour

The Independent's Geoffrey McNab reviews Tommy's Honour following the film's debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Based on Kevin Cook's terrifc book, it is directed by Jason Connery.

He writes:

There are a lot of whiskers and sideburns and plenty of thick tweed on display in Jason Connery’s Tommy’s Honour, which opened the Edinburgh Film Festival on Wednesday night. This is a golfing movie but not one in the vein of Happy Gilmore or Tin Cup. It is a sturdy, handsomely made Scottish costume drama, set in St Andrews, Fife, in the late 1860s and early 1870s. The film tells the story of Tom Morris Sr and Tom (“Tommy”) Morris Jr, a father and son who transformed golf and won multiple British Opens.

“Are you daft? You need a mashie,” one character is told in the middle of a game. That’s a reference to a club called the niblick, not to a way of cooking potatoes.

Connery evokes an era in which players strutted the Old Course at St Andrews in heavy jackets and caps, hats and bonnets, using wooden shafted clubs to hit hand-made golf balls off very rough looking fairways onto bumpy greens.

A preview clip:


What Will Mike Davis Do Next?

The Dustin Johnson episode was regrettable on so many levels that I struggle to pin down the most glaring consequence of the USGA's actions.

But here goes...

The USGA became the story over the players and Oakmont.

The USGA jeopardized their reputation over a strict reading of their rules, instead of taking into account the spirit of the rules or other similar situations from the round, or just simple common sense that said this did not meet the threshold set by Decisions 18-2/0.5.

They risked the reputation of the sport and the United States Open over an obscure "Decision" in a situation brought on by their love of unsustainable green speeds.

A select few people went out on a limb to penalize Johnson, ultimately embarrassing their staff, USGA members and the volunteer referee who agreed with Johnson's view that the player had not caused the ball to move.

The USGA essentially called Johnson a liar by insisting on penalizing the eventual champion.

And they have, for the foreseeable future, guaranteed a poor relationship with the world's top professional golfers based on the unprecedented reactions from golf greats young and old.

Tiger Woods (here in expanded comments) and Arnold Palmer (here) are the latest to chime in with less than positive responses. Many of you have shared with me your letters to the USGA as members or non-members, and those, along with the comments posted in threads here, have been eye-opening in the candor, passion and disgust expressed.

I attribute the unusual passion for USGA-hate to two things:

A) The attitude and leadership of the USGA was not reassuring and even considered smug by many.

B) Dustin Johnson's place in history was very nearly tainted for reasons most do not see as acceptable, or worse, served a bad reminder of times we've faced authority figures looking to make an example of someone.

While the Executive Director Mike Davis was in on the decision to add a penalty stroke to Johnson's score (along with three others who reviewed the tape with DJ post-round according to the USGA's Jeff Hall), Davis was only visible during Sunday's antics escorting DJ from the 18th green to his interrogation before the committee. The USGA president, Diana Murphy, did not referee the final pairing and still botched the awards ceremony, reminding us that the Walter Driver faction of the USGA's hand-picked leader could not be be counted on for any kind of leadership.

So it was on Monday that Davis finally went public and tried to repair the situation Golf Central, but then inexplicably asked for a "mulligan," a violation of the Rules of Golf!

In other words, the rules sticklers were asking for forgiveness in the spirit of the rules, the same lack of forgiving spirit they would not apply to the Johnson situation. This, even as any combination of factors could have been taken into account--green speeds, referee's decision, DJ's on-course track record--and were not.

Alan Bastable in this chat wondered how Davis, paid lavishly to be the non-profit's frontman because of his credibility and candor, could be so invisible.

Randall Mell at also wonders the same thing.

With the USGA’s credibility so under assault right now, with the world’s best players poised to revolt, with some pushing for the PGA Tour to take charge of their own rule making, it’s more important than ever for Davis to be out front. You may not agree with some of his U.S. Open setup philosophies, some of the creative tweaks he has added to an old formula, but Davis is a persuasive figure. He is a true believer. He is committed to his principles, and he knows how to sell his ideas. He can give eloquent, thorough explanations for the most controversial decisions (i.e., anchored strokes). That’s why his voice is needed to soothe all the angst, to reassure the faithful that reasonable complaints are being heard and reasonable solutions are being sought.

Davis is not much for social media and is probably not aware just how much anger has been directed there or in private exchanges between golfers. Without remedying the impression given that Dustin Johnson was dishonest in his Monday Golf Central appearance, I suspect that golfers will continue to view the USGA as frustrated high school administrators who enjoyed doling out punishment merely for the sake of protecting their rules. Davis has to stop the bleeding and do it soon or the damage to the USGA will be profound.

Given the USGA's increasingly apparent aversion to addressing the issues that have led to this point--the distance pursuit, the corresponding green speed push and the inability to keep the genie in the bottle any longer--maybe the bleeding cannot be stopped.


Irony Alert: Fox Earns Golf Cred With USGA Fiasco Coverage

Both Martin Kaufmann at Golfweek and John Strege at Golf World focused on Fox's handling of the USGA's mishandling of the Dustin Johnson ball move, and appropriately praised the network for their coverage. (Classic Sports TV also did its usual breakdown of shots and it appears the controversy coverage ate into the number compared to last year.)

This twist in the Fox-USGA saga is glorious on many levels.

To review: the USGA wanted a partner who would expand their brand, carry their water, rub their shoulders and, in general, give them the love they so desperately thirst for the one week a year the world is watching. (There has been the sense that former partner NBC covered past boondoggles too well and could not be trusted by the loyalty-over-competency ways of the modern, coldly-corporate USGA.)

In year one, Fox complied with an excess of USGA logos on the screen, daily Mike Davis booth visits, way too much Tom O'Toole in the booth and hiring folks like former Walker Cup captain Buddy Marucci, who brings no energy (both O'Toole and Marucci were back in 2016, with O'Toole as a contributor to the digital announce squad that Marucci worked).

Yet when the USGA rules staff intervened Sunday in the proceedings, most of the nation could see what the USGA still can't see--a referee agreeing with a player that no violation occurred. Fox carefully called them out initially, and then as reality set in, allowed analysts Azinger and Faxon do what they're paid to do: give strong opinions. That initial restrained skepticism also bought them a free pass for the various and inevitable mistakes when you only do a huge production once a year and on almost no sleep due to the weather delays.

Kaufmann explores the USGA fiasco element of the telecast and adds this insight into why Buck kept steering his analysts to the weirdness of it all:

Buck, in an interview late Sunday, said he received a text from a NFL head coach during the Johnson dispute who said, “It’s like the officials telling you, ‘Hey, we can’t tell you if the two-point conversion you just tried is good until the end of the game.’ It was odd to do an event where you weren’t sure what the lead was.”

In calling them "noticeably better" Golf World's John Strege also focuses on the ruling fiasco, crediting the network for showing Tweets from top players.

So it's fascinating that Fox succeeded by setting the tone for national outrage aimed at the USGA, levels of which we've never quite seen. The willingness to expose questionable decisions by their partners gave them golf street cred but helped do incredible damage to the USGA.
Isn't it wonderful when it all works out?

Besides the right amount of honesty from analysts Azinger and Faxon when it came to the Johnson situation we saw a more restrained Buck, a more polished Holly we used to know and love being back, and a wealth of eye-catching effects made it a much improved effort.


Flight Track, showing the player teeing off with a side graphic depicting the flight of the ball and various numbers. Easily the biggest innovation in golf viewing based on the viewer reaction on social media and in the press center.

--Protracer from the side, Protracer in general, and lots of Protracer live.

—More incorporation of blimp shots, which wasn't a hard one to improve since its use was almost non-existent last year.

--The cup mic picking up Spieth chatter on 6 green Saturday and at other times when balls hit the flagstick.

—The pivot of putting on-course reporter Curtis Strange in the main booth after it was kind of obvious that the two-time US Open winner brought gravitas. More booth time and less on-course time.

--Real time shot information. It was particularly spellbinding when Dustin Johnson was playing thanks to his incredible carry yardages.

--Incorporating social media into all days of the telecast. Maybe even incorporating them on screen? But who could have seen the day social media was potentially impacting the final nine of a golf tournament.

--Bob Ford and Gil Hanse were welcomed changes in pace, styling and insight into setup/agronomics/local knowledge, but we didn't get enough of them breaking down the holes. The potential of the on screen hole drawings is exciting.


The lowlights:

--Azinger seemed a bit reserved the first two days, with Faxon doing much more of the talking. By the weekend Azinger was more assertive and his colleagues more deferential to his opinions, which are generally the most interesting and nuanced on the Fox team. More Azinger next year and let him go down those interesting, wonky ratholes like the discussion on Trackman, then let the others chime in as they did this week. Viewers can't get enough.

--Relying on lower right leaderboards with a handful of names was particularly annoying in early round coverage when viewers all over the land want to see names of qualifiers they are following. How about at the bottom screen, a running board so folks in 19th holes across the land can spot names?

—Too often Fox showed a great shot and didn't follow up the story. Rory drives a green, we don't see the next shot, etc...

--Not enough flyovers, especially those given the slight artistic treatment that are so hard to take your eyes off of. The straight drone shots down the fairway don't inspire much insight.

—Two course records were in play that threatened to join Johnny Miller's famous 63, yet were not treated like historic moments. Andrew Landry should have been getting non-stop coverage as he closed out round two. Perhaps because the philosophy seemed to be...

—Big name players and more big name players, meaning the network/FS1 coverage felt too often like Best Of Featured Group coverage. NBC's Tommy Roy tried to show all 156 players in the field the first two days, whereas Fox seems more about the big names. That's fine, but does undercut the USGA's message that this is the world's most democratic championship and everyone who is there has a great backstory.

Mark Brooks has good things to say and was quite solid on last year's Featured Group coverage where he was more energetic. Worrying about being on camera may be the culprit for what seemed to be a more restrained approach, though I did enjoy his willingness to subtly indicate greens 14 on the Stimpmeter were not cool.

--Green shading and the small yellow dots were great to the trained eye but I wonder what the casual viewer thought?

—Still some struggles following shots and with sound. And what was the noise that caused Dustin Johnson to back off on 18? That could have been disastrous.

--Interviewing Rickie Fowler (+11) while Shane Lowry (-2) was on the course finishing round two bothered many. It was nice of Fowler to stick around, but since he's not a former U.S. Open winner nor was a pre-tournament favorite, make him wait a few more minutes and show Lowry.


DVR Alert: Golf's Greatest Rounds, 1982 Open At Troon

8 pm ET and PT, Tuesday June 21, featuring Tom Watson winning at Royal Troon.

Cue the Love Unlimited Orchestra!

Jim McKay!

Jack Whitacker in a Tweed hat. I'm in.


USGA's Davis, "We made a big bogey"

Appearing on Golf Central, the USGA Executive Director/CEO stood by the Dustin Johnson ruling that everyone from the Fox announce team on down questioned, but apologized for the handling of the penalty.

Talking to Lisa Cornwell, Davis asked for a mulligan--oh the irony--on the execution of the news delivery to Johnson. Will Gray reports:

"When you look back at the whole issue, you can break it down into two parts. It's a rules of golf issue, of trying to make sure that you apply the rules correctly the way they're written. And we do believe we did that," Davis said. "But there's another part of it in terms of the conduct of the championship itself, and that's where we'd really like a mulligan because clearly we made a big bogey."

Rule 2016-1, the USGA wants mulligans! Lift, clean and place for everybody!

Unfortunately the question will dog the USGA for years to come: if they believed in the letter of their law, why did they feel the need to await Johnson's defense of a crime most feel he did not commit?

"That really gets down to putting in essence the championship on the final day almost in limbo to where the players, and in this case Dustin, didn't know where he stood in terms of a score," he said. "That's where, if we could do it again, we should have just applied the penalty once we looked at the video."

While this apology will appease some, I'll be shocked if this convinces the viewing public and contestants that Johnson violated the rule.

The full interview, followed by a post Davis chat with Adams, Oberholser, Rosaforte and Hoggard.


USGA Issues Statement: Stands By Ruling, Regrets Not Issuing A Penalty Sooner

Fascinating dynamics in this apology. USGA CEO/Executive Director Mike Davis is schedule to appear on the 6 pm ET Golf Central to elaborate.

USGA Statement Regarding Dustin Johnson Ruling

The USGA wishes to congratulate Dustin Johnson on his victory and thank him, and the other players in the field, for their professionalism and grace throughout the championship. Dustin is a wonderful champion, a talented golfer and a gentleman.

Our team at the USGA has seen and heard a great deal of discussion and debate about the ruling on Dustin’s ball moving during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club. In addition to the explanations we offered upon the conclusion of the final round, we add these comments.

Upon reflection, we regret the distraction caused by our decision to wait until the end of the round to decide on the ruling. It is normal for rulings based on video evidence to await the end of a round, when the matter can be discussed with the player before the score card is returned. While our focus on getting the ruling correct was appropriate, we created uncertainty about where players stood on the leader board after we informed Dustin on the 12th tee that his actions on the fifth green might lead to a penalty. This created unnecessary ambiguity for Dustin and the other players, as well as spectators on-site, and those watching and listening on television and digital channels.

Translation: this is as close to a concession that they had decided early on to award Dustin a penalty and should have just done so, since there was nothing he could say that would reverse their decision. Arguably the most troubling element to the entire episode gets more interesting with this apology.

During any competition, the priority for Rules officials is to make the correct ruling for the protection of the player(s) involved and the entire field. In applying Rule 18-2, which deals with a ball at rest that moves, officials consider all the relevant evidence – including the player’s actions, the time between those actions and the movement of the ball, the lie of the ball, and course and weather conditions. If that evidence, considered together, shows that it is more likely than not that the player’s actions caused the ball to move, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty. Officials use this “more likely than not” standard because it is not always apparent what caused the ball to move. Such situations require a review of the evidence, with Decision 18-2/0.5 providing guidance on how the evidence should be weighed.

Our officials reviewed the video of Dustin on the fifth green and determined that based on the weight of the evidence, it was more likely than not that Dustin caused his ball to move. Dustin’s putter contacted the ground at the side of the ball, and almost immediately after, the ball moved.

We accept that not everyone will agree that Dustin caused his ball to move.

Say, 99.999999% of the population.

Issues under Rule 18-2 often require a judgment where there is some uncertainty, and this was one of those instances. We also understand that some people may disagree with Rule 18-2 itself. While we respect the viewpoints of those who disagree, our Committee made a careful and collective judgment in its pursuit of a fair competition played under the Rules of Golf.

In keeping with our commitment to excellence in all aspects of our work on behalf of the game of golf, we pledge to closely examine our procedures in this matter. We will assess our procedures for handling video review, the timing of such, and our communication with players to make sure that when confronted with such a situation again, we will have a better process.

The review process is under review!

We at the USGA deeply appreciate the support of players, fans, and the entire golf community of our championships and our other work for golf – and we appreciate your feedback as well. We have established an email address ( and phone mailbox (908-326-1857) to receive comments. We thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

We all share an abiding love of this great game. Let us continue to work together for its good.

And we'd love to hear your thoughts on green speeds pushed to mask the lack of distance regulation we've overseen!


Ratings: 2016 U.S. Open Earns Second Lowest Final Round

The overnights do not include cumulative audience numbers, which would logically seem more important than ratings given the length of Fox's 2016 U.S. Open coverage.

Nonetheless, for now we have overnights to consider from SportsMedia Watch and some analysis on Twitter from SBJ's Austin Karp.

Only Martin Kaymer's 2014 runaway was lower rated than this year's finale (3.8), and Saturday's rain-delay expanded coverage that reverted to FS1 for the last hour earned the worst third round number since ratings have been tracked (1988).

In two years on FOX, the U.S. Open has delivered two of its four lowest final round overnights. Including the record-low of 2014, the past three years join only 1988 as the lowest rated on record in the metered markets.

Saturday’s third round coverage posted a 2.5 overnight on FOX, down 27% from last year, when coverage went later into primetime (3.4), and down a tick from 2014 on NBC (2.6). The 2.5 is the lowest on record for third round coverage, falling below the previous mark set in 2014.

The second round coverage earned the third-lowest for second round coverage, ahead of only 2014 and 2011.

This from SBJ's Karp:

Fox offered this related to Saturday's coverage:

U.S. OPEN SATURDAY RATINGS NOTES: FOX Sports enjoyed an extended broadcast window Saturday, with nine hours of continuous coverage of the 116th U.S. Open Championship on local FOX stations from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM ET. Highlighted by perfect playing conditions and a fluid leaderboard, coverage of the second and third rounds yielded 19.8 gross ratings points over the course of the Saturday network window, a +11% increase over the 2014 U.S. Open (17.9 – nearly eight hours; most recent East Coast U.S. Open). Coverage peaked with a 3.0 rating and 4.4 million viewers from 5:30 – 6:00 PM ET.

And this:

U.S. OPEN SATURDAY RATINGS NOTES CONT': Saturday's U.S. Open coverage began with two bonus hours airing on FS1 from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM ET, garnering an average of 819,000 viewers, the second most-watched Saturday morning telecast in FS1 history.

I'm torn on whether the ratings news is that bad given what a dark day this might have been. While Fox handled it well and no doubt upset their USGA "partner" that seeks house organ coverage, golf would not have appealed to many casual fans if DJ was cost a U.S. Open by the rules committee.

That said, I still want to see the cumulative audience to see just how bad the number is. And at year's end I'll try to get the cumulatives for the four majors and Olympic golf.

A more detailed review of the highs and lows from the telecast is coming along with links to some other takes. But the Johnson rules situation takes priority for now.


US Open Recap: ShackHouse Episode 11, Golf Digest Podcast

The blog has been neglected in this time of somewhat mind-boggling U.S. Open antics, but while I read what you and my colleagues are saying--I'd ask you to consider some new podcasts.

Recorded in the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center's excellent restaurant and bar (thanks to the crew for taking care of us and our weird U.S. Open hours with smiles and impressive food) Golf Digest's Ryan Herrington, Joel Beall and yours truly discuss what we saw Sunday at Oakmont. Please subscribe at your preferred podcast provider (iTunes here).

On ShackHouse Episode 11, Joe House and I try to stick to the big picture issues at this U.S. Open win: Dustin Johnson's breakthrough, the USGA's bizarro behavior, some of the big picture ramifications from the Sunday fiaz and the much-improved effort from Fox.

As always, you can subscribe on iTunes and or just refresh your device subscription page.

Same deal with Soundcloud for the show, and Episode 11 is here.

And the ShackHouse Stitcher page.

Special thank you to our sponsor Callaway, makers of Chrome Soft and XR driver, House's new Apex irons, and now offering a common sense Rewards program for loyalists.

Thanks to for White Hot face putters that have made them the #1 putter in golf and used by U.S. Open runner-up Jim Furyk along with T5 finisher Branden Grace.

Also thanks to this week's sponsors: ($5 off first order w/code HOUSE for best razors and shave cream going)

New sponsor ($50 off the security doorbell that will be cutting short the career of my football-playing FedEx package deliverer. Just use our link)

And finally, the hi-tech, no logo and bargain-priced workout gear from (15% off using code HOUSE, I'm sure you won't be disappointed).

Thanks to all for subscribing, listening, offering your feedback and supporting our advertisers, including Bill Simmons and, launching Any Given Wednesday on Wednesday, June 22 at 10 pm!

ShackHouse remains the #1 golf podcast on iTunes. Thanks all for your support.