Mysteriously wishing to shift the narrative from the new Rules of Golf rollout on day three of the biggest revamp ever, the USGA has revealed to GolfChannel.com’s Jaime Diaz of plans to end Mike Davis’s run as U.S. Open course setup man. Davis has been handling that role since 2005. He will be succeeded by John Bodenhamer, who joined the USGA in 2011 to oversee amateur championships before being elevated to a greater role in recent years. (Will Gray at GolfChannel.com has this item on Bodenhamer.)
Diaz’s story comes with an admission from Davis that the USGA erred again at Shinnecock Hills after a detailed post-mortem of the 2018 U.S. Open was compiled.
Bodenhamer would go on to prepare a detailed behind-the-scenes post-mortem that has provided the USGA a more accurate assessment of what went wrong at Shinnecock, specifically an error in communication and execution along the chain of command. “It wasn’t that there was a judgment to make the course harder on Saturday by not applying water in the morning,” Davis said. “Water was applied on the front nine, where there were no complaints. It was a failure of carrying out the intention of applying enough water on the back nine. That was not the Shinnecock Hills club’s fault. We erred there. The USGA erred.”
Elevated to the CEO role in 2016, Davis tells Diaz the issue of distraction from organization duties became apparent, leading to today’s news.
“I feel like, finally, we’ve gotten this thing right in terms of the right structure,” Davis said. “In retrospect, if I had given up the setup role in 2011, which probably ideally I should have in my position, that would have been the right thing to happen. For a number of reasons, among them that when I came on board I was very comfortable in the golf arena but less so in the support functions, that didn’t happen. But now we are coming into a great time.”
Davis will continue to have a role in course setup, as well Jeff Hall, who appears to have been passed over for the U.S. Open lead role.
“John is going to take the lead, I will continue to be part of it,” said Davis. “I will continue to watch the golf course closely, mostly on the broadcast. But we need somebody to be the face, and John will be outstanding at that. Jeff will continue to take an important role. Bottom line, it’s a team effort. It hasn’t been one person and it won’t be one person. But I’m not going to be out there in the morning doing setups anymore.”
The move is obviously disappointing news to those who welcomed Davis’s many positive ideas about better showing off a course design or in eliciting different questions beyond who hits the ball the straightest. Presumably the USGA’s shift in philosophy will continue but lurking more than ever is the continued pressure to maintain difficulty at courses overwhelmed by spiking driving distances.