As I wrote for the June Golfweek in recapping the events of 2004, the USGA just hasn't been the same since they lost control of Shinnecock Hills and injected themselves into the outcome.
They were coming off low scoring at Olympia Fields and folks wanted them to get their identity back to being the toughest test of golf. We all know how that turned out (we'll be examining this in greater detail Tuesday night on Golf Channel's Live From The U.S. Open in a feature produced by Dominic Dastoli and reported on by yours truly).
Fast forward to 2017 and the USGA wisely takes a cautious approach to Erin Hills where the wind can blow and the ground can dry out quickly. Mother Nature didn't cooperate, the course played wide and players hit the ball obscene distances.
Now everyone wants the USGA to get back to its old self, minus the gaffes.
Jack Nicklaus wants the old USGA back according to the Forecaddie.
So do all of Golf Channel's analysts who miss the strategy of having to hit down a very narrow fairway and pitch out of rough.
The topic even came up with Mike Tirico on Morning Drive Friday.
I have bad news: the old identity is not coming back nor should it in the way so many hope.
The identiy question stems from three different gripes folks have with the USGA.
--Venue Selection Division. The identity was lost with Erin Hills and Chambers Bay for many. Even though Shinnecock Hills is links-like in appearance, the designs of the aforementioned and their setup opened the USGA up to criticism. Yet both produced worthy champions and unlike 2004, there will never be a question about whether the outcome was tainted.
--Anti-progressive Setup Set. It's hard to believe folks are clamoring for the days or chip out rough 3 yards off the fairway while the drive 30 yards wayward finds matted down rough. Nor can I fathom how anyone wants to go to some of the game's greatest places only to smother out the best design features to match the U.S. Open setup "identity." As long as the players can carry a ball 300 yards or more and use wedges to hack out of rough, the old ideal isn't coming back.
--Mike Davis Disdain Marching And Chowder Society. If you do not fall into one of the first categories, chances are your desire to see the U.S. Open return to its old ways stems from simply not liking the role Davis has played in trying to move the U.S. Open into the new century while retaining some of the old identity. This group is generally made up of players and old guard USGA types who have magically forgotten the prominent course setup and rules role played by Joe Dey and Tom Meeks.