The next two years figure to be entertaining, what with Walter "it's 75% athleticism" Driver officially taking the helms of the USGA today, Feb. 4. (Well, he really really took over this summer as evidenced by this U.S. Open press conference and the early announcement of his presidency.).
A retired lawyer from Atlanta now working for Goldman Sachs, Driver is an Augusta National member who has written extensively on the need to diversify...his law firm. Thanks to reader Mike for this absolutely hilarious exercise in politically correct memo writing.
But it's Driver's press conferences that give us so hope here at GS.com.
Flashback to Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, 2004, where we had Driver's infamous lecture on the "Rodean" hole at Shinnecock. And following 3rd round play, his defense of the 7th green freakishness that would require a stoppage of play the next day.
Q. In the next to last group, I believe it's Maggert played into the front trap and blasted up. Are we reaching the point where that may be the preferred line on that hole?
WALTER DRIVER: I didn't see Maggert so I don't know. You do want to keep the ball under the hole one way or the other. Maruyama in the last group hit the ball to the right of the hole and it stopped nicely in the middle of the green. Mickelson's ball was going right at the hole, maybe even a shade left of it, and then the wind knocked it down and kept it going left. As with all rodean holes, you cannot hit the ball at the hole, you have to hit it out to the side and let the slope take the ball down.
So on a Redan you want to play it out right and let it feed down to the hole.
On a Rodean, you play to the front bunker and wedge onto the green...and hope it stays!
And how does this sound nearly 2 years later and in light of ugly things got Sunday at Shinnecock:
Q. Are you concerned personally that this might be embarrassing for the USGA or for golf, or are you concerned that the public may perceive the U.S. Open as having something of a goofy shot element to it?
WALTER DRIVER: Absolutely not, and I think if they get that impression, that's a gross misdeed on what is one of the best golf courses in the United States. The players have been very positive the whole way. It's just a great experience. They like the golf course, they like everything about it, and one hole -- the wind changed on the field, and at the end of the day it was a very difficult hole. But I think you've got to take into consideration they've played 54 holes, and we've rotten rave comments on 53 of the 54 holes, so I think you need to put that into perspective.
Hey, one unplayable hole out of 54 is no big deal. Get a grip, will you guys?! It's only about to get like, 100 times worse.
Ah Sunday's post round press conference, the day of the alleged "middle of the night" green rolling.
Q. If I change the question, would disappointed also be in there along with surprised in terms of the way the course played?
WALTER DRIVER: I would rather not have had the controversy, but we couldn't do anything about it. You know, you can't be disappointed in something that you can't completely control.
That's right, it was all the weather's fault. Those Southampton breezes are difficult to counteract.
Q. But if you would have watered all the greens last night, that would have eliminated the problem?
WALTER DRIVER: Actually I'm not sure that's true.
He's right you know. All it took was a light watering after a couple of groups went through.
You need to talk to an agronomist. But I was told that there is a difference in the absorption rate on the greens that in order to have changed the greens last night, we would have had to water for about three or four hours and it would change dramatically the character of the entire golf course in a way that we didn't anticipate that we would need to do that. We're not going to start watering at 11:00 o'clock at night based on how much Andy North's hair is blowing, frankly.
And that's why you're the USGA Championship Committee we love and know.
Q. Does the fact that Goosen and Mickelson were able to play really splendidly at times and shoot decent scores and come in under par suffice, or can this be a bad experience for you guys despite that?
WALTER DRIVER: Well, there's a great quote from Sandy Tatum, one of our predecessors, as the president of the USGA.
Yes, who we don't listen to anymore even though he is widely respected throughout the rest of the golf world. Sorry, continue.
We weren't trying to humiliate the best players in the world, we were trying to identify them. What you identified today is that Goosen and Mickelson particularly played wonderful golf under very adverse conditions. You know, I was walking in the Goosen and Els group, the last group, and when Ernie left a chip shot short of the green on the first hole and double bogeyed the hole, Goosen knocked his in. Who would have ever predicted that they would start off and have a three-shot swing on the first hole? That sets a tenor for the entire game, and frankly, the course conditions didn't have much to do with that particular relationship.
Yep, Tiger "they lost control of the golf course" Woods was exaggerating.
And there was this year's priceless rationale printed in the USA Today:
"In the years when we've had problems," said Driver, noting 1992 when the wind made Pebble Beach unfair and last year at Shinnecock, "the championships have been on the coast."