Back in May when Sports Illustrated threw me in a room with David Fay, Brad Faxon and Larry Dorman to discuss the state of the game, Fay said it was his hope that the rough at Winged Foot would be 8 inches on certain short holes.
This, apparently to deal with the flogging mindset that became even more widely practiced at Pinehurst just a few weeks following the roundtable.
So in reviewing Jim Achenbach's recent column on Walter Driver, I found this perplexing:
Now, for the moment I'm going to disregard the fact that growing rough at higher heights on shorter holes only reinforces the idea that the USGA is obsessed with preventing red numbers.
Driver also would like to be seen as an innovator, so a major change in the famous U.S. Open rough apparently will be seen in his first year as president. Driver was chairman of the Championship Committee before becoming USGA president, and his fingerprints already are all over the U.S. Open. After the USGA lost control of course conditions at Shinnecock Hills in the final round of the 2004 Open, Driver wrote a collection of course setup guidelines that were successfully adopted at the 2005 U.S. Open and will be followed at all future U.S. Opens.
Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competitions, outlined the changes in the rough by saying that for the first time the U.S. Open rough will not be a uniform height. Davis indicated that the primary rough probably would be higher on short par 4s and lower on long par 4s.
And I'm going to ignore how disturbing it is that the USGA, obsessed (and wonderfully so) with "play it as lies" golf, is working so hard to manufacture lies. (No pun intended.)
After all, course setup staffer Mike Davis is one of the real bright hopes within the USGA. He and Tim Moraghan got Pinehurst through the '05 Open despite the meddling of Tom Meeks and Lord knows who else.
And I like the staggered rough cutting concept that Davis has introduced because it has eliminated the ridiculousness of drives just missing fairways finding heavy rough, while tee shots further off line find less penalty. Davis also does not seem pre-occupied with the winning score hovering around par, as some are.
However, last I looked, flogging really separates the bombers from the shorter hitters on the long par-4's, not on the shorter holes where the USGA plans to grow more rough.
So with shorter rough on longer holes, it would seem that the players will only be that much more encouraged to flog it off the tee to get that flip wedge approach.
Apparently, the USGA doesn't see it that way...
The theme here is easy to decipher: The USGA does not want long hitters to be able to exploit shorter par 4s by bombing their drives with impunity somewhere close to the green. Some kind of remedy needs to be found, Davis indicated, and variable rough may be one answer.