As with his course setup approach, Mike Davis’s departure from U.S. Open course setup duties has elicited many opinions.
Eamon Lynch of Golfweek makes a convincing case that mistakes were exacerbated by other USGA matters or perceptions.
Much of the ire directed at Davis had little to do with course setup, but had its roots in everything from rules controversies to equipment regulation (or the lack thereof). The USGA has an image – wholly dated, but still vital – of being ivory-tower killjoys, alert to the dangers of golfers having too much fun. As the organization’s public face, Davis abides the mockery with affable humor.
In the Golf.com roundtable, Michael Bamberger wants more Nick Price’s involved in decisions while Alan Shipnuck says the change was born only out of course setup mistakes.
Bamberger: The USGA is operated by committee. The decision to go to Erin Hills and Chambers Bay came when David Fay was its executive director, but ultimately the decision fell to the president and board. Mike did more to popularize the drivable par-4 than anybody not named Big Bertha. Some of the poor hole positions at U.S. Opens were avoidable. If you had ONE person like Nick Price out there when the holes were actually being cut you’d almost never have a problem. The lifers are absolute savants, and one yard can make a world of difference. The U.S. Open and the USGA tries too hard. That’s in our DNA — I don’t know how you can change that. It needs to take a deep breath and relax.
Dethier: I still think Chambers Bay was awesome and got a bad rap, and even this year’s conditions didn’t offend me like they did Zach Johnson et al. The USGA’s main shortcoming is that it remains the players’ favorite punching bag. It’s rare to see Tour players go after the Tour, but they salivate at the opportunity to take on the USGA. Sounds like that’s a focus going forward; we’ll see how they do.
Shipnuck: Davis is a good guy who truly loves the game and has poured his heart and soul into the USGA. But there were simply too many screwups on his watch. I’ll never forget in 2016, while Dustin was playing the final holes and confusion reigned, I found Davis upstairs in the Oakmont clubhouse, having just taken a shower so he could be fresher for the awards ceremony. It was tragicomic. The tournament was in flames but he didn’t seem to fully grasp the gravity of the situation.