CT Creep Crackdown! PGA Tour Buttons Up Driver Testing Protocols

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Xander Schauffele and friends wanted a lot more testing and less transparency after having his Callaway fail a random R&A driver test.

While all players will not be tested at all majors, the PGA Tour did announce a very detailed and seemingly logical random testing system that should ensure any drivers exhibiting “CT Creep” are found and prosecuted. The USGA’s Equipment Standards Team will do the heavy lifting and players can now expect their gamer and any backups to be randomly tested at some point.

From David Dusek’s Golfweek report quoting the PGA Tour’s notice to players, which danced around the idea of hot drivers (aka cheating) by focusing on the CT creep possibility:

“Recently, we have become aware that drivers in play on the PGA Tour may be exhibiting a trait whereby through normal use, the clubface ‘creeps’ beyond the allowed CT limit under the Rules, despite having conformed to the CT limit when new,” the letter notes. “When such a situation occurs, in accordance with the USGA’s Notice to Manufacturers dated October 11, 2017 the club is deemed to have become damaged into a non-conforming state and may no longer be used in competition.”

The story goes on to explain the process of testing and how names will be drawn. There is also a Golfweek exclusive video featuring the USGA’s John Spitzer showing how their test works.

Average World Ranking Of U.S. Amateur Final Eight: 187

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Actually, that’s the average of the seven who are ranked. One is unranked.

I offer this not to pick on the lads—average age of 20—who are playing excellent golf at Pinehurst, no doubt. Ron Driscoll’s wrap up and notes at the official site.

Still, as far as U.S. Amateur’s go, with a Walker Cup looming next month, not the best showing for the higher ranked players in the amateur game or much of a momentum builder for interest.

No top ten seeds advanced to the round of eight. Adam Woodward sets up the matchups for Golfweek. The most interesting story left may be that of Austin Squires, the 64th seed who earned his way into match play in a playoff and has knocked off some top players, including the top seed Brandon Wu.

Woodward with Squires’ story.

John Augenstein has the best chance to work his way onto the Walker Cup team despite a rough summer. Ryan Lavner with his story and hopes to work his way into consideration.

Hey on that note, just a reminder Fox has coverage on FS1 Friday, with network coverage of the semi’s and final this weekend.

The matchups:

Did Phil Inadvertently Make The Case For The De-Skilling Role Of Green Reading Books?

After Bryson DeChambeau cited his green reading book’s confusing data as part of the reason he took forever to hit a six-footer, the episode reminded plenty just how silly it is that an already slow game where key skills are less necessary would get slower and easier.

That DeChambeau suggested it was his right to set up shop due to the book read being so very, very wrong, reminded me what a stain on the game these are and that they simply need to go.

Today on Twitter, as Bill Speros notes for Golfweek, Rickie Fowler’s green-reading assistant and bagman Joe Skovron made clear he didn’t have a stake in the green book debate, but suggested they do help speed up play.

Phil Mickelson, in a rare reply, probably wrote too much:

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Mercifully for the green reading book world, Mickelson’s terrible stats this year strongly contradict his statement.

Skill was a key element in the governing bodies questioning the role of these books and rules were changed in an attempt to reduce their efficacy. Thomas Pagel of the USGA when the books were kept legal, with restrictions:

“We have looked carefully at the use of these green-reading materials and the extremely detailed information they provide and our view is that they tip the balance too far away from the essential skill and judgment required to read subtle slopes on the greens. It is important to be clear, however, that we still regard the use of yardage books and handwritten notes to be an entirely appropriate part of the game.”

They probably will not use Mickelson’s remarks to consider a ban given his season stats in the areas where he claims they gain him time and strokes. But Mickelson seems to admit that the books allow him to spend less time studying a course to learn how to read the greens or tackle the design.

There was also this from Luke Donald, one of the best putters of his or any generation:

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The "Hovland Rule" Might Not Have Made A (Tour Card Earning) Difference For Viktor Hovland

Even though everyone knows the USGA does not move quickly, Monday’s welcome change in allowing the reigning U.S. Amateur winner to retain their U.S. Open exemption even if they turn pro in the months after winning, was met with fingers pointed at Viktor Hovland.

While it is logical that Hovland remained an amateur to play the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, therefore costing him valuable FedExCup points had he been playing as a pro, it is illogical to think the USGA acted within hours of Hovland missing out on earning his PGA Tour card by just a few points.

Of course they did not and of course they have been contemplating this change for some time.

Even better, based on the points handed out at Pebble Beach, Bill Speros at Golfweek reasons that Hovland still would have missed earning his card…by one point.

U.S. Amateur Champs To Retain Their U.S. Open Exemption The Following Year No Matter What

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You may recall—probably not—how much this one has grown tiresome to me as a fan of keeping the U.S. Amateur a high-profile event in a world where the meaning of amateur status is fading away.

But now when the U.S. Open trophies surface at the USGA’s two biggest amateur championships (and the two biggest on the planet), the winner will know they have a date with the Open ten or so months later.

My item for Golfweek.com.

The move is good for the USGA, good for the amateur and best of all, sensational for the U.S. Open where preserving tradition like the premier defending champion/Open winner/U.S. Amateur champion is more important than whether the amateur retained their amateur status.

Of course, Viktor Hovland and his T-12 this year as an amateur will cringe wanting to know why this didn’t happen sooner, but he’ll be fine.

For Immediate Release:

USGA Changes Exemption Category for Reigning
U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Champions

Exemptions into U.S. Opens will no longer be contingent on retaining amateur status

Liberty Corner, N.J. (Aug. 5, 2019) – The USGA announced Monday that moving forward, the reigning U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions will be afforded the opportunity to utilize their exemptions in the following year’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur or professional.

Previously, the reigning winners of the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur received an exemption into the following U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, respectively, only if they maintained their amateur status. Moving forward, the reigning champions will have the option to turn professional while maintaining their exempt place in the field.

“We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA Senior Managing Director, Championships. “Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers.”

Over the past decade, four of 10 U.S. Amateur and three of 10 U.S. Women’s Amateur champions forewent their exemptions into the following year’s Open Championships, choosing to turn professional.

“Given the opportunities afforded the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions, we want to make sure they are able to take advantage of as many as possible,” said Bodenhamer. “We feel strongly that our reigning champions have earned their places in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, regardless of their amateur status.” 

Readers Questioning Clubs That Start Over The Speed Limit, But Within Testing Tolerance

Callaway CEO Chip Brewer issued a lengthy statement to explaining the Xander Schauffele non-conforming driver situation at the 2019 Open.

Brewer’s admission that the company handed their player a driver over the 239 CT limit but within the tolerance limit did not sit well with some observers.

Reader Chris writes:

Geoff, I am staggered at this statement:

“We know Xander’s driver was conforming when he received it. Probably in the range of 245 – 250 CT. At the Open we tested it at 255 CT, still conforming but close to the limit. The R&A tested it at 258, one over the limit.

The limit is 239, with a tolerance of 18 presumably for exactly the sort of circumstances Brewer describes in the statement. To hand a player a club they know to be beyond the limit is extraordinary negligence!

And Scott on Twitter also noted this issue with an analogy:

It’s hard not to wonder if both Schauffele in revealing his positive test and Brewer in admitting the company handed a driver to their player over the limit, brought all of the scrutiny on themselves. Particularly given the likelihood of “CT Creep” as outlined by Brewer in his statement.

The CEO’s statement could also backfire given the shots at the governing bodies about their testing suggesting some sort of possible tampering or illegitimacy (“Part of the issue is the testing location, a tent on the back of the range, where folks not directly involved in the specific testing can walk in-and-out too freely.”). That alone could invite more scrutiny, more required disclosure and more headaches for the manufacturers. This is trending toward ERC 2.0 by challenging the competence and very generous procedures of the enforcers.

As I noted just after The Open, all of these parties would have been wiser to admit their mistake and expressed gratitude at the lack of serious punishment. Because now it sure seems like they’ve kept this situation alive and festering, perhaps even warranting more scrutiny, more consideration and maybe tighter testing.

Given that the governing bodies have wrapped up their distance study and may take action this fall, this situation could help them make a case that the equipment rules need tightening and more public disclosure of those who fail tests. That would be an amazing turn of events.

How Notre Dame's Warren Course Landed The U.S. Senior Open

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John Fineran does a nice job summing up how Notre Dame’s Warren Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw made the right moves in earning it’s way onto the national stage this week with the U.S. Senior Open. The course struggled in its early years with maintenance issues but eventually got those right and now is the first university course to host a senior major.

That’s one of the reasons the United States Golf Association — after seeing Warren play host to the 2010 Women’s Amateur Public Links, several NCAA men’s and women’s regionals and several USGA qualifying events — announced in 2016 that Warren would be the first university golf course to host the event.

“The USGA was on board from the start,” Cielen said. “They said, ‘Look, we don’t have to change anything significant here.’ In fact, they paid us the ultimate compliment, ‘We can tee it up just the way it is.’”

Ben Kimball, the USGA’s senior director of championships, confirmed that in May.

“We’re here first and foremost for the golf course,” he said. “This is a fabulous Coore and Crenshaw venue. It’s going to be intimidating. Let’s face it, when you play in a USGA national championship, (the golf course) should be a little intimidating. Fair, yet intimidating. This is the biggest championship in all of senior golf. We want (players) to have butterflies in their stomach.”

The story also includes a sidebar explaining this week’s re-routing.

This 7-year-old video offers some insights and visuals as well:

Nicklaus: Sebonack Will Get A U.S. Open Someday

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Mark Herrmann of Newsday talks to Mike Davis of the USGA after recent Jack Nicklaus comments suggesting Sebonack will some day host a U.S. Open. The course is a co-design by Nicklaus and Tom Doak.

 Speaking at a Long Island Association luncheon recently, the 18-time major winner said, “I think we’re going to get the U.S. Open out there…and it won’t be long.” He wrote something similar when he served as guest editor of Golf magazine last month,

Davis, interviewed at this year’s Open here, said, “It’s one of many courses that has offered an invitation to host it. When it gets to that, there’s actually a team — I’m not necessarily engaged in that any more — but I daresay that there are probably 25-plus courses that have interest. The team does an analysis of every single course. I think it’s fair to say of every one of those that I’ve seen, is there a possibility? Absolutely.

The course hosted the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open and sits next to National Golf Links and Shinnecock Hills, host of the 2026 U.S. Open.

Phil: "I’ve got to give it to — hand it to the USGA for doing a great setup. It’s the best I’ve ever seen."

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Phil Mickelson’s 75 Saturday at Pebble Beach ended his chances here, so it’s never too early to start rebuilding his Golf Gods karma credits.

From Todd Kelly’s Golfweek story:

“I tell you, I think it’s — I’m really happy that I had this chance, this opportunity this week. I’ve got to give it to — hand it to the USGA for doing a great setup. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. And it’s identifying the best players. It’s making the players the story,” he said.

“I think the biggest thing was pin placements, instead of putting them right on the edges they were in good spots, rewarding great shots. I can’t say enough great things about how this week has gone so far. And I’m appreciative to the effort they’ve put in and for the opportunity that I had this week.”

Rory On The U.S. Open Champions Dinner, Checking Out Golf's Most Historic Artifacts

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The Forecaddie tells the fun story of the USGA’s amateur and former champions dinners held this week.

Sounds like quite a swell night. At least based on the incredible photos by the USGA team.

Rory McIlroy’s comments from his Wednesday press conference:

Q. You mentioned a couple of times, can you talk a little about what the dynamic was like at the Champions dinner last night? You don't do it every year. Who else did you have interesting conversations with?

RORY MCILROY: It was awesome. 33 of the 36 living U.S. Open champions. We had a great table. It was Erica and myself; Jordan and his wife, Annie; and Brooks and his partner, Jena. It was just the six of us at a table. And it was really cool. I don't know, even just the stories that we were telling. We were obviously the young table (laughter). We must have stayed about an hour and a half after everyone else had left. We shut the place down, just chatting, and it was really, really cool.

But then talking to Lee Trevino about the Ryder Cup in Walton Heath and it was like '81, and Jerry Pate came into the story, and they played together in the foursomes and they beat Faldo and Sam Torrance. Yeah, just really cool.

And then there was some artifacts from the USGA Museum, Hogan's 1-iron from Merion. The golf ball Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam with. Arnold Palmer's visor that he threw up in the air at Cherry Hills. I'm a golf geek, and I love the traditions and history of the game. And that is so cool.

I sort of walked away from that dinner wishing that they did it every year. But I think it is so special that we do it every five or six years, and you look at that picture. Gary Player stood up and made a great speech about how he came here to the United States with no money. He won, I think -- he won the U.S. Open, it was $5,000 or something. And that was a huge deal back then.

Just how the game has changed and evolved. It just made me really appreciate being a part of that club that have won the U.S. Open. It was a really cool thing. And looking forward to being able to do it for years to come.

Mike Tirico's Chat With Mike Davis: Pebble Has Never Looked This Good

Mike Tirico’s Vantage Point chat which covered a range of topics, with a slight undertone of awkwardness given recent years and player griping, nonetheless it’s worth a few minutes if you’re interested in hearing about this week or Davis’ view on the USGA’s role going forward as a steward of the game. He notes that the organization puts more money into the game than any other.

Bodenhamer On Setup Philosophy, Calling In Other Voices To Help USGA Get It's Groove Back

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As we await the USGA’s annual news conference here at Pebble Beach, Brendan Porath’s lengthy Q&A with new course setup supervisor John Bodenhamer is a pretty revealing look at the lengths he is taking to ensure they hear all points of view.

Check it out, but this was interesting as it relates to Mike Davis, who is still involved but no longer in charge. No shortage of opinions have been sought!

We try to follow what the architect intended. I think it’s really fun to be around that with Mike. I’ve learned a lot.

As far as different, I don’t know — I think Pebble Beach will always be what Pebble Beach has been for the U.S. Open. I mean, why would we do anything different when we’ve had Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods, and McDowell win, and in dramatic fashion every time. Why would we change the recipe? We’re not going to. Now look, there are a few new putting greens here, some new teeing areas, you know it’s little bit different golf course than it was in 2010 and the weather is going to be different probably and all of that. There are some differences.

The one thing that I would say that I have tried to infuse, and Mike and our team are fully supportive, is to be a little more informed with how we’re going into this U.S. Open. What I mean by that is we have Jason Gore on our staff [Gore was announced as the USGA’s first Player Relations Director in March]. A player that has won 11 times at the professional level, seven times on Tour. And he’s informing our process from a setup standpoint.

Nick Price, we’re involving Nick in what we’re doing here at Pebble Beach. Nick will be here this week. We also brought in a guy that I’ve known for a long time — a guy by the name of Casey Boyns. He’s a 37-year caddie here at Pebble Beach and a two-time California amateur champion and probably won 20 other major amateur events around California and the country. I’ve known him a long time, played golf with him years ago. He’s won two California amateurs at Pebble Beach, when he won in the 80s and 90s. But he caddies 250 to 300 times a year here and he’s done it for 37 years. There is nobody who knows this golf course better than him. We brought him out and went around the golf course with him. We showed him our plan. He knows how these greens behave in certain types of weather. He knows what the four new putting greens are behaving like. He knows what the wind will do certain times of the year. It’s fascinating and we’ve brought him in and that’s a little bit new for us.

Crews Will Be Standing By To Put Out Pebble Beach Hotspots

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Nice note here from Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com on the USGA advising players of the right to hit greens with water midday to prevent, well, we all know…

One of the concerns following the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, in 2010, was how the poa annua greens became particularly difficult in dry conditions, much like those forecast for this week. Perhaps in reaction to that officials have told players that they will syringe greens between the morning and afternoon waves on Thursday and Friday if needed.

Pebble Beach Flyovers: Seventeenth And Eighteenth Holes

By 2010 the 17th green had devolved to the point players were intentionally placing their tee shot in the bunker, then taking the chances with an up-and-down. As I recall—please tell me if you think otherwise—the hole was cut left on this hourglass green all four days.

Here was a then and now view of 17 (1929 vs. 2010) that I posted from the U.S. Open.

Since then the green was remodeled and is significantly more playable and interesting than last time we saw U.S. Open conditions here. It’s always one of the most difficult holes to gauge the wind’s effect in U.S. Open conditions due to the grandstand by the green and more protected tee area.

I am not sure what to expect of the famous closing hole this time around since players were regularly reaching the hole in August’s U.S. Amateur. The fairway has been narrowed significantly and forces tee shots to hug the cliffs, with the fairway bunkers now protected by rough.

The layup isn’t much to worry about without the overhanging tree of yesteryear, but the 70-foot tall replacement can be a killer if a player goes for the green and leaves a shot out to the right. Still, expect players to try and get as close to the green as possible if they hit a good tee shot.

90 Years Later: The 1929 U.S. Amateur As One Of Golf's Seminal Events

1929 US Amateur Program, painting by Maurice Logan, digital restoration by Tommy Naccarato

1929 US Amateur Program, painting by Maurice Logan, digital restoration by Tommy Naccarato

If there was one event I could go back and experience, I now believe it’s the 1929 U.S. Amateur. Sure, ‘13 at The Country Club and the 1930 British Amateur at St. Andrews come to mind, as does 1960 at Cherry Hills. But after going back and revisiting everything that went on in advance of the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and what that event meant for west coast golf, U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and even the Masters, I try to make the case for ‘29 in this Golfweek story.

I mention this because this year marks the 90th anniversary and as the U.S. Open arrives at Pebble Beach, celebrating its centennial, this amateur was the event putting the course and region on the map. I also bring it up since the first amateur at Pebble Beach was always a footnote, lazily written off as the amateur Jones lost during an incredible 1-1-2-1-1-Rnd32-1 stretch.

Some of my favorite golf photos are in this USGA gallery of the 1929 event.

Getting In The Mood: 1982 U.S. Open Film, My US Open With Watson

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The cheese factor is high, with a strong late 70s influence in hair, music and kitsch factor, which makes this 1982 U.S. Open film so much fun. It has a happy ending too. And how about PSA for the member’s program!

And here’s a great fast-forward to the present day with Watson talking about ‘82 with highlights.

Revised: U.S. Women's Open Final Round Draws Just A .5

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Paulsen at Sports Media Watch waits for the final rating (not the overnight) and it’s an all-time low for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

The fall of this event in terms of viewership from the Sorenstam days is shocking:

As recently as three years ago, final round coverage had a comparably healthy 0.9 and 1.31 million. Five years ago, when Michelle Wie won, the final round had a 1.4 and 2.04 million on NBC. Thirteen years ago, when Annika Sörenstam last won, ratings and viewership reached as high as 3.1 and 4.28 million.

Keep in mind that coverage aired directly opposite the final round of the PGA Tour Memorial tournament, which featured Tiger Woods (2.1, 2.96M). While last year’s coverage also faced the Memorial, the PGA Tour event aired primarily on tape delay due to rain.

The final round was no match for the corresponding days of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur (0.9, 1.36M) or last year’s Women’s British Open (0.7, 964K).

They Love Raynor! Women's U.S. Open Competitors Approve Of CC Of Charleston

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Bob Spear in a special to The State reports a runaway success for Seth Raynor’s CC of Charleston design, which came off beautifully on TV thanks to restoration work and super Paul Corder’s team pulling it all together.

Even the players, who were put through a tough test, raved after a tough weekend where Jeongeun Lee6 prevailed to win the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

Lydia Ko, who illustrated the notorious 11th hole can be conquered by making a hole-in-one there Sunday, called the Charleston layout “a great representation of golf courses. It’s not tricked up. It’s right in front of you, but it can play really tough. ... A great venue.” 

“Really tough” proved prophetic to those who started the day within four shots of the lead. Only Lee6 broke par. 

Ford, the general chairman, felt all pieces of the puzzle came together “as close to as perfect as it could have been. We wanted the players to have a great experience, and they have. And the golf course has proved itself to be a great test of championship golf.” 

No doubt about that, Paula Creamer said. 

“The crowds, the venue here, it’s been awesome,” she said. It’s a good U.S. Open venue for sure.” 

Said Gerina Piller, who shared fifth place: “It’s phenomenal. The place is great. The golf course is great.” 

The USGA likes its championship courses to play firm and fast, and Charleston certainly did. Superintendent Paul Corder and his staff drew accolades for the conditioning. 

Jack: Knee Height Drops Look "Silly"

I’m sure many of you saw this from his early week presser, but if not, add Jack Nicklaus to the list of those who mostly likes the new rules of golf (remember them when they were a thing!).

But about that drop from knee height, it’s not just the young guns who feel foolish taking a drop that way, notes Golf.com’s Josh Berhow:

“I think they’ll change the drop-it-from-knee-height rule,” Nicklaus said. “It looks silly. How about ‘Anywhere between the knee and the waist'”?