Tip O' The Cap: Fox's Shane Bacon Heads To U.S. Open Sectionals

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Nice work by the Fox Sports lead-when-Joe-Buck-isn’t-working voice of golf to make the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying this year. Good luck Monday in Dallas.

Though there is a U.S. Senior Women’s Open this weekend to cover first. At least you have Mid-Pines and Pinehurst nearby for some early morning or late evening practice!

Pro Golfers See USGA, Rulemaking Madness In Kentucky Derby Race Reversal

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As a fan of horse racing, I was saddened that the likely best horse could not be crowned the Kentucky Derby winner, but the rules are explicit and the sport came within inches of a catastrophic pile-up when Maximum Security drifted badly and deserved to be disqualified.

There will always be bickering over the decision and plenty of unanswered questions over the oddity of a jockeys Flavien Prat and Jon Court having to lodge an objection when the Inquiry sign should have gone up after the race concluded. And while I don’t expect pro golfers to know some of horse racing’s rules, particularly given how things went down, it was still fascinating to see a few players lump golf’s governing body in with the Churchill Down stewards (Golf.com’s Pat Ralph with a roundup.)

That’s an ignorant notion on many levels, but particularly when the rules mocked are designed to protect lives. Time will vindicate the Derby decision, but the jump-to-conclusion mentality working against rules enforcement these days can’t bode well for the future of rules and rulemaking in sports.

USGA Downsizing: Where Has The Money Gone?

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It’s a question that will ruffle the feathers of Executive Committee members and USGA groupies, but after the news reported by Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com that downsizing in Far Hills is a thing, the question must be asked: where has the money gone?

From $37 million a year in NBC/ESPN money to $93 million under Fox through 2026, and yet, as Hoggard writes, the organization confirms 63 employees 55 and older have been offered a benefit plan closed to new participants in 2008. So far, he reports, 50 have taken the offer, kissing goodbye to oodles of institutional knowledge, insight and wisdom at a time the organization needs it more than ever in its history given issues the game faces.

From Hoggard’s report the USGA confirmed the program:

“As the USGA continues to evolve its organizational structure in an effort to drive greater impact and sustain a strong financial future, we have offered a voluntary retirement incentive plan to a segment of our staff,” the USGA said in a statement provided to GolfChannel.com. “It provides eligible employees with enhanced pension and retiree health benefits, with no obligation to participate.”

The deadline to accept the plan was Tuesday, and although employees still have a window of seven days to decide if they want to participate, sources have told GolfChannel.com that at least 50 have volunteered.

Costs for all businesses rise and the USGA has done its part to up purses for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, while better compensating host venues to pick up costs that come with the U.S. Open. They’ve improved Golf House, protect golf history when it’s called for and invest in some “grow the game” programs, it’s still hard not to wonder where the Fox money has gone.

Hoggard writes:

The move is surprising for an organization that appeared flush with cash from a 12-year television deal the USGA signed with Fox Sports in 2013.

According to various reports, the television rights deal is worth $93 million per year and the association reported $214 million in total revenue in 2017 according to tax forms.

Since we can’t really pick apart the budget, the news of layoffs and reorganization provide a wonderful opportunity to revisit where the organization was supposed to be with the Fox millions. That means re-reading Ron Sirak’s definitive Golf Digest story on the deal and what it would do for the USGA.

Of course, it’s cringeworthy reading given proclamations in Sirak’s story by the deal’s visionaries Glen Nager, Gary Stevenson, Tom O’Toole, Mike Davis, Casey Wasserman and Sarah Hirshland. Four of those names have all moved on to leave the mess behind to Davis.

Let’s catch up with them!

While this review is no comfort to those who are taking early retirement to help the USGA keep the lights on, it’s hard to say anyone but Wasserman has landed in a better place.

Nager is representing a dreadful Chinese company suing the United States and looking even more miserable than ever, Hirshland is dealing with the unfixable US Olympic Committee mess and stepping in it early on, while Stevenson has an MLS job and Pac-12 network launching on his resume, a notch above “former Enron executive” in the current sports business world. O’Toole, meanwhile, has not turned up in a green coat at the Masters but has been seen driving around carts with Fox logos at recent U.S. Open’s. I’m not sure if he’s working as Joe Buck’s go-fer, or just a friend of the network, but it’s not a great look for all involved.

Wasserman’s highly successful and generally well-regarded agency is still collecting USGA consulting checks as the engineer of the deal, but I can’t imagine his word in the golf world carries the weight it once did given Fox’s failure to deliver the USGA to the promised land of increased prominence and Masters-level ratings dreamed of by Nager.

The U.S. Open became golf’s lowest rated major in 2018.

Furthermore, Fox Sports 1 has not provided what was predicted by Hirshland in the Sirak story, and the organization has consolidated its exposure to a smaller audience. Maybe the documentaries portion is true:

"Financials are absolutely important, but that was not the only factor," says Hirshland, neither confirming nor denying the monetary terms of the deal. "First, we get the opportunity to expand our exposure and tell our story to a broader audience. We also get the opportunity to create some distinctiveness about the role we play in the game through ancillary programming like previews of major events, wrap-ups of lesser events and documentaries that use our archival material."

While Fox Sports 1 has finally stabilized in terms of programming, ratings and vision for the future, this AP story by Joe Reedy today mentions many things, but no plans to expand its place in golf.

Which brings us back to those who have devoted their lives to the sport serving the USGA and have institutional knowledge to share, but now face early retirement: if the Fox money and massive revenues of the U.S. Open—plus nearly $500 million in the bank according to the latest tax filings—are not enough to keep the USGA from needing to downsize, then where is the money going? What has happened?

Sadly, the folks who made the decisions possibly leading to this day have all moved on to other jobs while many of the folks they left behind are giving up theirs. It’s hard to see how this could possibly be good for the good of the game.

Sue Nyhus Has Qualified For Every USGA Championship She's Been Eligible For

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Beth Ann Nichols tells the story of a very unusual and pretty incredible feat by Sue Nyhus, having qualified for eight different USGA championships now after adding the U.S. Senior Women’s Open to her resume.

What a grand statement about longevity, devotion to the game and consistency of skill. Way to go Sue.

Oh, and it sounds like the qualifying for that most recent effort was a real test of that devotion!

USGA Names Jason Gore Senior Director Of Listening To Players Complain

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Congrats to the former Wave, Walker Cupper and all-around nice fellow Jason Gore on accepting the unenviable task of listening to pro golfers gripe about course setups and the rules they haven’t read.

For Immediate Release…

USGA Expands Player Relations Capabilities in Naming Longtime PGA Tour Player Jason Gore as Senior Director

Four-Time U.S. Open Competitor, 1997 Walker Cup Team Member Will Lead Player Relations Team, Engaging with Elite Amateur and Professional Players Across the Game

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Mar. 22, 2019) – Following an extensive search, the USGA has appointed longtime PGA Tour player and four-time U.S. Open competitor Jason Gore as its first senior director, Player Relations.

The appointment launches a comprehensive program aimed at sharing information and strengthening engagement with players in areas of importance to the USGA. These include initiatives to grow and advance the game, research critical to the game’s health, and continuing to incorporate the players' perspective in its work to advance the sport.

Gore’s primary role will be to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly focusing on competitors in the USGA’s Open and amateur championships. He will lead a team of full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who assumed her player relations role last fall. Previously the manager of the USGA’s Curtis Cup Team and a member of the U.S. Women’s Amateur staff, Fradkin has already been a fixture at several LPGA Tour events. 

They will be joined by Robert Zalzneck and Ali Kicklighter, who will manage USGA player services with an emphasis on onsite services at the USGA’s four Open championships. 

“Jason is a dynamic individual who has a great passion for the USGA and the game of golf and is widely recognized and respected by Tour players and staff, as well as industry influencers,” says John Bodenhamer, senior managing director, Championships. “Filling this role has been a strategic priority for the organization for some time and in Jason, we have someone who will bring us player insights and share our position on matters of importance to the game.” 

A Southern California native, Gore, his wife, Megan, and their two children, will relocate to New Jersey in the coming months. A brief bio is below:

 Jason Gore

  • Graduate, Pepperdine University (2000 – psychology); 1997 NCAA Division I team champions

  • Member of the 1997 Walker Cup Team

  • Competed in the U.S. Open in 1998, 2005, 2008 & 2010; final Sunday pairing with Retief Goosen at Pinehurst in 2005

  • Competed in the U.S. Amateur in 1992, 1993, 1995 & 1997

  • Competed in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1990

  • Captured 12 professional wins: One PGA Tour win (84 Lumber Classic in 2005) among 16 top-10 finishes; all-time record seven Web.com Tour wins; four additional professional wins

  • Amateur wins: 1996 Sahalee Players Championship; 1997 Pacific Coast Amateur; 1997 California Amateur; 1997 California Open (as an amateur)

  • Competed in more than 500 events on the PGA Tour (291) and Web.com (233) tours

  • Served on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council (PAC) nine times

“I have the utmost respect for the USGA and proudly tell everyone that my experience in the 1997 Walker Cup was the highlight of my golf career,” said Gore, 44, who won the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic in 2005 and played in Sunday’s final pairing of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. “I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to play this role and can’t wait to get started.”

Added Bodenhamer: “While we’ve often engaged with players on a variety of projects and enjoy many longstanding relationships, this is the first time we have dedicated a team of full-time staff members to serve as year-long ambassadors for the USGA, as well as a voice for players. We’re excited to see what has been a long-term priority coming to fruition.”

USGA Hiring A Tour Liaison?

That’s what Michael Bamberger reports for Golf.com in his weekly 7 Best Things column:

The USGA is in the final stages of making a hire for a new and senior employee who will oversee and seek to improve the USGA’s relationship with the PGA Tour and the LPGA. A guess is that if you are reading this you will know the person’s name when it is revealed, which should happen well before the Masters.

There is no such job listed at the USGA website but the idea is an interesting one given the state of affairs between pro golfers and the governing bodies. Communication was a big theme in Jay Monahan’s late-Players week comments to Global Golf Post’s John Hopkins, including this:

My concern is there is all this discussion about rules, when we have so many great things happening inside the ropes in our tournaments every single week…we don’t write the rules. We are a partner to the organizations that do but it ends up being a sizable distraction.”

PGA Tour Is Not Going Into The Rulemaking Business Anytime Soon

While we had another bizarre rules moment Thursday at The Players, Harold Varner’s troubles had little to do with the new rules, just a complex and freakish run-in with an old rule related to club adjustability.

But it’s worth noting that even after a bizarre violation we are not seeing the usual outpouring of grief over the change. That’s a direct result of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan reiterating and expanding on a recent memo making clear the PGA Tour has no desire to make golf rules.

My Golfweek story on that, and the key kumbaya quote after a two hour five familes meeting.

“We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” he said Wednesday. “We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules. We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and the same standards. We think it’s a source of inspiration for the game.”

Rory McIlroy Defends New Rules Of Golf, Governing Bodies

In between talking Abraham Lincoln and Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy took the high road on the beleaguered new rules of golf. And the people who worked over many years to simplify them.

Prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill:

“I think that the governing bodies are a very easy target right now in the game of golf and it’s very easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and sort of criticize,” McIlroy said at a pre-tournament press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Wednesday. “But all these entities in golf, they’re not trying to do anything bad for the game, they’re trying to help the game in some way. So I think we all have to give them a bit of leeway here and say, yes, they probably made some mistakes, but we all do. And I’m sure they will get it right eventually.”

Monahan: Need To "Make Certain Our Players Give Us Constructive Feedback"

AP’s Doug Ferguson looks at the bad look all round for golf with players and governing bodies squabbling over the rules.

Though as he notes, the USGA’s mistaken Tweet trolling of Justin Thomas at least prompted PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan to finally intervene.

Monahan says USGA chief executive Mike Davis left him a message saying he would call Thomas to apologize. On Tuesday, the USGA corrected itself with another tweet - lacking an apology - saying that Thomas did not cancel any meeting or dodge any discussion and that it valued all the players' opinions.

So maybe the USGA deserves some credit. If not for the original tweet, odds are Monahan would not have sent the memo to players.

The message still needed to be delivered.

"It was important to remind the membership of the role we play, how important their voices are and to continue to make certain our players give us constructive feedback we need to have a proper discussion with the governing bodies," Monahan said Tuesday at Bay Hill.

We discussed the importance of Monahan’s memo on today’s Golf Central…

 


USGA Backtracks On Justin Thomas Twitter Trolling: "We realize he did not avoid a discussion"

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I can only imagine the email our late great friend Frank Hannigan might have sent reading about the USGA PR account trolling a top 5 player over cancelled meetings about new rules gripes, only to learn that the trolling was completely uncalled for. Screen captured here is the original Tweet before all of this sleeps with Luca Brazi:

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No apology of course, just egg on the face.

Back to our late friend Hannigan who’d be cooking up another Letter From Saugerties suggesting he never imagined it’d get worse than Walter Driver taking a private jet or Tom Meeks losing control of multiple U.S. Opens.

My first reply to the former Executive Director would inevitably have been about the reader replies to the USGA’s Tweet and how many expressed a total loss of faith in the organization. But I’m guessing his reply would have been something to do with the GIF’s about the Twitter walk back, which are pretty magnificent.

Ultimately, however, it’s hard to imagine how the USGA is able to recover from this with top players or insiders following this bickering online.

Certainly, any kind of effective regulation on distance will never happen now and it’s hard to imagine how players ever let up about anything course setup-related, even if the griping is unwarranted.

A sad day all round and arguably the darkest in USGA history, which is saying something given too many to chose from in the last decade.

PGA Tour Commish Issues Memo To Reign In The Lunatic Fringe

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I was starting to wonder if PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan enjoyed seeing his players bash the governing bodies over the new rules given his public stance against the R&A and USGA over distance. A position which has added to the disharmony as it suggested to players that the governing bodies are looking to take your hard-earned distance and hard-earned endorsement dollars away.

Maybe he saw Charl Schwartzel unnecessarily berating a PGA Tour official at the Honda or read some of the absurd player comments directed at the new rules.

Maybe he read Eamon Lynch’s Golfweek column on what a bad look it is for the pros to be whining about rules that do not effect 99.9% of the population or rules that were enacted with good intentions to help the pro game. Sure, some things really stink like the drop rule, but as Lynch writes…

The problem is that Tour players seem less interested in providing insight than in shifting blame.

Maybe it was Justin Thomas’s Twitter exchange with the USGA.

Maybe Michael Bamberger’s admonishment of all involved did the trick.

Just ask yourself, before you open your mouth or Twitter account: Are you about to make the game better? Are you putting the game first, or yourself? Fowler failed on Thursday. The USGA failed on Saturday. It was all so inane it makes you want to scream.

Maybe the accountants finally delivered an updated estimate on Foster and Partner’s new PGA Tour HQ building and realized there’s nothing left to administer the rules, much less enforce them?

Maybe Monahan was touched by R&A Ambassador Padraig Harrington’s defense of his friends in the rules world or the comments of Thomas Bjorn, a Ryder Cup winning captain who knows everything after guiding Europe to victory.

Maybe he saw this fight among grown men in flip-flops at a South African course over cheating and realized it looks a little like his players squabbling with the governing bodies?

Or maybe he read the absolute gibberish being churned out by some of his players on Twitter.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, for instance:

I believe Matthew is saying PGA Tour referees are supposed to ignore the rules as written. What could go wrong!

And this exchange involving Patton Kizzire, followed up by some particularly odd logic from Andrew Landry, could have done the trick:

Yes, Patton not getting in the U.S. Open is exactly the reason to throw out the new rules! Brilliant!

Whatever it was, Monahan issued a memo to PGA Tour players reported on by GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard essentially telling the lunatics in the asylum to pipe down.

This should quiet things, assuming the players actually read the memo:

“[The Tour] put forward a lengthy list of recommendations to improve the rules in many ways, including the removal of numerous penalties, and virtually all our suggestions were incorporated,” the memo from Monahan read. “We also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules prior to implementation, which resulted in modifications for the final version.”

The full document Tweeted by Hoggard:

JT Addresses The USGA Trolling Him On Twitter: “It is unfortunate. It just was — it really hurt me.”

Justin Thomas after the Honda Classic final round.

Justin Thomas after the Honda Classic final round.

By my math the two sides should be even. Justin Thomas isn’t so sure.

Even though JT has trolled the USGA on Twitter with a "growthegame” hashtag, the organization’s surprise call-out of the former Walker Cupper over his new rules comments appears to have taken him by surprise. And shock. And making a claim that the USGA Tweet was not accurate.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek report at the Honda:

“It was a little shocking. It was a little upsetting just because it was inaccurate,” Thomas said Sunday of the USGA’s claims. “I haven’t canceled anything, especially any meetings. But it is what it is, and all I want is the best for the game of golf and the best for the sport, and that’s what we’re going to continue to try to communicate with each other to get that.

“It is unfortunate. It just was — it really hurt me.”

The full video of Thomas’s post round comments.

The USGA’s John Bodenhammer talked to Morning Drive to clarify the organization’s concerns and unlike the Tweet, sounded more concerned about repairing damage and preventing a war of (social media) words.

“It’s very clear there is a certain level of discomfort with some Tour players, certainly not all, and we are working to address that with certain rules,” Bodenhamer said. “We know we have more work to do.

Players were buzzing about the USGA pushback, Randall Mell noted in quoting Jim Furyk:

On Golf Central, both Mark Rolfing and David Duval took issue with the USGA’s tactics though the outcome of more refined dialogue and maybe an end to some of the more excessive new rules commentary.

JT, USGA Take Rules Squabbling To DM, Planned Meeting

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I was hoping for a Vietnam summit but it’ll be more like Justin Thomas and Mike Davis having coffee in the Seminole clubhouse before Monday’s pro-member.

Saturday’s back and forth after Thomas took to social media to voice concern about the revamped rules of golf and the most recent penalty, this one a retroactive two-shotter for Adam Schenk.

Ahhhhhhhhh…

Rules Mess: PGA Tour Pros Making The Case For Bifurcation With Each Passing Day

There are two columns from the Honda Classic worth noting as they ultimately have players ripping the revamped Rules of Golf for both selfish reasons and also somewhat logical ones.

Randall Mell took the occasion of Rickie Fowler’s deuce drop to highlight Justin Thomas’ complaints about the change in replacing a broken club, a very first world PGA Tour problem that would not impact most golfers.

“I think they’re terrible,” Justin Thomas said.

That’s what he told media the day before the Honda Classic began. His opinions only hardened in the first round, when he bent the shaft of his 9-iron, hitting a tree with a shot at the 10th hole. The new rules wouldn’t allow him to replace the club, the way the old rules would have.

Unable to repair the club, as new rules allow, he played the final eight holes with 13 clubs.

Thomas said he probably couldn’t have replaced the 9-iron in a timely fashion anyway, with his backup at his Jupiter home down the road, but it’s the principle.

“You can just add that one to the list of rules that don't make any sense,” Thomas said.

Again, a first world one but understandably important to professional golfers who play a different game for a lot of money than the rest of us.

There was also this from Mell:

Player frustrations over the new rules were a topic of conversation in a mandatory players’ meeting at PGA National this week. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan presided. Players fear other controversies may be lying in wait.

While incidents of player ignorance are not the fault of the mostly-excellent and streamlined rule modifications, there is no getting around the optics. By starting the year with major changes in the heart of the season and without significant field testing, the result has been mockery.

From Brian Wacker’s Golf World column of a similar theme to Mell’s:

“Golf is trying to appeal to a younger audience, get people into the game, want it to look cool,” Fowler said. “Well, I was sitting at home first couple weeks of the year and me and some buddies were making fun of the new drop rule. It looks terrible.”

The precious M’s aren’t always right nor should their views supercede all others, but the notion that players are hearing from friends how ridiculous they look will ultimately undermine the rules if not addressed. Which strikes at the ultimate issue here as it’s been for all too long: the governing bodies have always struggled with the notion of someone making a living playing the game. And heaven forbid, people like them more than the amateurs.

Billy Horschel:

“My buddies at home are making fun of these rules,” he said. “People in the greater word of golf are making fun of them. Some of [the changes] are good, some of them are bad.

“But I told the USGA you guys aren't the main influencer in the game of golf like you were 30, 40, 50 years ago. PGA Tour players are now the biggest influencer in the game of golf. What the golfer at home sees on TV, they're going to copy us.”

Which is why, ultimately, these rules needed more field testing and a gradual rollout to help educate all or work out kinks.

But given the difference in tournament golf today versus the everyday game, and the resulting taint which could offend new players to the sport, we are increasingly seeing why splitting the rules makes sense. Anyone for Golf Channel’s relaxed rules for the rest of us while the tournament golf world sorts all of this out?

Could A Review Of Performance Enhancing Flagsticks Prove Fatal For The Governing Bodies?

To review: golfers can leave flagsticks in the hole without penalty, pro golfers have convinced themselves that they will make more putts, fans can see the hole easier, and unlike some of golf’s new rules, there is nearly unanimous support for this change before a majority of golfers have even tried it.

But with the R&A’s Martin Slumbers’ comments this week, combined with the USGA’s Thomas Pagel having said something similar to the WSJ’s Brian Costa, both organizations have suggested that should there be signs the new rule is enhancing performance and de-skilling the game, they might have to revisit the change.

From Alistair Tait’s Golfweek story:

“It wasn’t intended as a rule to improve performance. It was intended as a rule to improve pace of play, and it’s something we will watch and see. But these are early days. This is not the time to make knee‑jerk reactions.”

Slumbers is right, this is not the time. But even if this one does pan out to somehow allow a few more people to make more putts, rescinding this rule might just be the undoing of the governing bodies.

After all, might most wonder why the possibility of performance enhancement was not investigated before making the rule change?

I offered this video version of the above comments for Golfweek…

R&A Chief Counters USGA: “It hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked.”

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While USGA CEO Mike Davis sees the revamped rules rollout as a “huge success”, his counterpart at the R&A offered a different view Tuesday.

From Alistair Tait’s report at the chief’s St. Andrews sitdown with writers.

“There’s been some unfortunate situations, no doubt about that,” Slumbers said. “It hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked.”

That’s a rather stark difference from Davis’ position, but also a more credible one that will resonate with most golfers.

He also defended the knee-drop situation.

“The intention for the knee drop rule is to be able to get the ball back in play quickly, in a prescribed area, and without having re‑drops.”

Yes but…

USGA CEO Davis: New Rules "A Huge Success"

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News was lighter than ever coming out of the USGA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, as few media members attended and the organization’s relevance wanes.

Global Golf Post offered these notes, where the main news may be a reconsideration of amateur status and online components to that which have gotten YouTube posters in trouble, according to the USGA’s Thomas Pagel.

Mark Newell was elected to a second term as president, but his address was not posted in written or video form online as has been the custom in the past.

Perhaps that’s why CEO Mike Davis made a bold declaration about his organization’s joint effort with the R&A to revitalize the rules.

From Ryan Herrington’s Golf World report that also includes a mention of a few other anecdotes from the address, but this stood out:

“From my perspective, I would say by and large they’ve been a huge success,” Davis said. “They did exactly what we wanted them to do, which was really simplify the understanding and make them easier to apply.”

I’m a little surprised that declaration wasn’t tempered with something about the expected rough patches and that ultimately a huge success story is looming.

Particularly as 2/3rds of the country hasn’t even hit a shot under the new Rules.

There was also this:

Hearing tour pros rail against the USGA is nothing new. But USGA officials have tried to address the issues quickly and provide players background for the changes in hopes that a better understanding of the thought process will assuage their concerns.

“When you actually take them through ‘this is why’, it’s always a light-bulb moment,” Davis said. “‘Oh, I didn’t realize that.’ And I think that’s the frustration that there is. You know it would have been nice if you actually asked the why … but listen, it’s the world we live in.”

This probably would have been more palatable had their been a longer rollout in advance, with a few high profile events as test grounds both for golfing fans and for players.

You can see Davis’ address followed by a town hall meeting which, despite what appears to be a much smaller crowd than in past years, undoubtedly put extra strain on the evening’s open bar portion of the festivities.

USGA Announces Six U.S. Amateur Venues From 2021 To 2026: Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills, Hazeltine, Olympic And Merion

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Interesting to see the USGA announce so many venues at once for the U.S. Amateur.

Obviously the standouts are Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills and Merion—Hazeltine and Olympic once would have been exciting but seem overexposed and architecturally uninspiring now compared to the rest of the scheduled venues. Both are scheduled to host future Ryder Cups.

The next two U.S. Amateurs are at Pinehurst and Bandon Dunes.

For Immediate Release:

U.S. Amateur Returns to Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills, 
Hazeltine National, The Olympic Club and Merion

USGA announces six U.S. Amateur Championship sites, from 2021 through 2026

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Feb. 21, 2019) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced sites for six U.S. Amateur Championships, from 2021 through 2026. Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club will host the U.S. Amateur in 2021 and will be followed by Ridgewood (N.J.) Country Club in 2022 and Cherry Hills Country Club, in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., in 2023. The 2024, 2025 and 2026 championships will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club, in Chaska, Minn.; The Olympic Club, in San Francisco, Calif.; and Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore, Pa., respectively.

“This distinguished group of future U.S. Amateur sites aligns the USGA’s oldest championship with courses of historical significance and proven competitive excellence which will be beneficial to both the player and fan experience,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships. “Amateur golf is primary to the USGA’s mission and the partnerships with these prominent clubs affirm our commitment to supporting and growing amateur competition.”

Designed by Henry C. Fownes and opened in 1903, Oakmont Country Club has been the site of 16 previous USGA championships, the most recent in 2016 when Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open by three strokes. In 2025, the U.S. Open will return to Oakmont for a record 10th time. The 2021 U.S. Amateur will mark the sixth time the championship has been held on the iconic western Pennsylvania course. Oakmont previously hosted the U.S. Amateur in 1919, 1925, 1938, 1969 and 2003.

Ridgewood’s three nine-hole courses – East, Center and West – were designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened for play in 1929. Ridgewood, which will host its fifth USGA championship, was the site of the 1974 U.S. Amateur, when Jerry Pate defeated John P. Grace, 2 and 1. The club most recently hosted the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior, won by Eun Jeong Seong. It also hosted the 1990 U.S. Senior Open, when Lee Trevino posted a two-stroke victory over Jack Nicklaus.

In 2023, Cherry Hills Country Club will host its third U.S. Amateur and 10th USGA championship. Steven Fox made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 37th hole to defeat Michael Weaver and cap a memorable 2012 U.S. Amateur final. Phil Mickelson, then a 20-year-old Arizona State University student, captured the 1990 U.S. Amateur there. Designed by William Flynn, Cherry Hills has hosted three U.S. Opens. Arnold Palmer produced one of the most indelible performances in Open history with a final-round 65 and a record comeback in 1960, while Ralph Guldahl (1938) and Andy North (1978) also won there.

Hazeltine National will host the 2024 U.S. Amateur, its 10th USGA championship. The club will also be the site for the 2020 U.S. Junior Amateur. Designed by Robert Trent Jones and remodeled by his son, Rees Jones, Hazeltine National hosted the 2006 U.S. Amateur, which was won by Richie Ramsay, the first player from Scotland to win the title since 1898. The U.S. Open Championship has been contested twice at Hazeltine. In 1970, Tony Jacklin became the first Englishman to win in 50 years, while Payne Stewart claimed the first of his two U.S. Opens in an 18-hole playoff over Scott Simpson in 1991.

The Olympic Club (Lake and Ocean Courses) will host its 12th USGA championship with the 2025 U.S. Amateur. The U.S. Women’s Open is also scheduled in 2021. The club has held three U.S. Amateurs (1958, 1981, 2007). Five U.S. Opens have been held at The Olympic Club, including Jack Fleck’s three-stroke playoff victory over Ben Hogan in 1955 and Billy Casper’s four-stroke playoff win over Arnold Palmer in 1966. Webb Simpson (2012), Lee Janzen (1998) and Scott Simpson (1987) each produced come-from-behind victories.

Merion Golf Club will establish records for most USGA championships hosted by a club (20) and most U.S. Amateurs when the Amateur is contested there for the seventh time in 2026. Merion, which hosted its first USGA championship in 1904 – the U.S. Women’s Amateur – will also host the 2022 Curtis Cup Match. The U.S. Open has been played five times (1934, 1950, 1971, 1981, 2013) at the club, while six U.S. Amateurs have been held (1916, 1924, 1930, 1966, 1989 and 2005). Hugh Wilson designed Merion’s East Course, where Bob Jones won two of his record five U.S. Amateurs (1924, 1930).

The 119th U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 12-18, 2019 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C., while the 2020 championship will take place at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in Bandon, Ore., Aug. 10-16.

USGA Allows Lucy Li To Retain Her Amateur Status...

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The star of an Apple ad and Nike ambassador Lucy Li has been issued a “one-time warning” for a blatant violation of amateur status rules.

In covering this for Golfweek, Beth Ann Nichols includes this from Thomas Pagel:

“Since that time, the USGA has had several discussions with both Apple and the Li family and has confirmed that Ms. Li has neither received, nor will receive, any monetary or non-monetary (e.g., products) compensation for her appearance in the advertisement.”

The USGA said it took into consideration that Li is a minor and that this was her first breach of the rules.

For Immediate Release…

USGA Statement Regarding Amateur Status of 
Highly Ranked Golfer Lucy Li

February 14, 2019

The USGA Amateur Status Committee has ruled that amateur golfer Lucy Li breached Rule 6-2 of the Rules of Amateur Status by participating in an Apple Watch “Close Your Rings” advertisement campaign.  Following that determination, the Committee carefully reviewed the facts and circumstances surrounding the breach in order to determine the appropriate penalty for Ms. Li. 

As a result of that effort, the USGA has issued Ms. Li a one-time warning. She will retain her Amateur Status.

Late last year, Ms. Li was engaged by a casting agent for an acting assignment to promote the Apple Watch. At that time, the nature of her participation was not defined and she was given no indication that she would appear as a golfer. While on this assignment, Ms. Li was filmed engaging in a variety of recreational activities, one of which was golf. The casting agent informed her that her appearance in any final advertisement was not guaranteed, nor did they know how she would be featured.

Ms. Li first became aware of the final content of the advertisement, which featured her as a golfer, on Jan. 2. She was notified by the USGA of a pending review into her Amateur Status on Jan. 3. At that time, Apple immediately took down the advertisement in all its forms. On Jan. 11, USGA notified Ms. Li  she had breached the Rules of Amateur Status.

Since that time, the USGA has had several discussions with both Apple and the Li family and has confirmed that Ms. Li has neither received, nor will receive in the future, any monetary or non-monetary (e.g., products) compensation for her appearance in the advertisement. Ms. Li has affirmed to the USGA that at the time she agreed to participate in the advertisement she did not know she was breaching the Rules of Amateur Status, and at no time did she intend to forfeit her Amateur Status.

In determining the level of penalty, the Committee considered all these facts and circumstances, including a recognition that Ms. Li is a minor and that this was her first breach of the rules. This ruling is consistent with the Committee’s general practice of issuing a warning to amateurs who unknowingly breach Rule 6-2 for the first time and take appropriate remedial measures.  The USGA has communicated this ruling to Ms. Li and this matter is now closed.

We encourage amateur golfers who are unsure about taking a proposed action to engage with their governing body early in the process, in an effort to protect their Amateur Status.

Opportunistic Whining? Tours Had A Seat At New Rulemaking Table

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You all may recall chief Keith Pelley chirping on behalf of outraged European Tour players at the sheer non-game-growing new rule that cost Haotong Li two strokes, though as I noted at the time you didn’t hear PGA Tour players griping because they clearly were more up on the new rules. And Pelley was taking his tour to Saudi Arabia, so a distraction card was also being placed on the table.

When the PGA Tour players started running into issues in Scottsdale, the inevitable cries of rulemaking unfairness were followed by the cheers from current and former players for the PGA Tour finally showing the amateurs in St. Andrews and Liberty Corner how it’s done. The PGA Tour’s statement after the McCarthy episode:

“It is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among players and caddies on the practical application of the new rule during competition, as well as questions surrounding the language of the rule itself and how it should be interpreted,” the Tour announced in a statement on Saturday. “As a result, with the full support of the USGA and the R&A, the rule will be interpreted whereby the two aforementioned situations as well as future similar situations will not result in a penalty.”

One problem, the PGA Tour and the European Tour were all in on the new rules meetings, as was the PGA of America.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com takes a tough but appropriate stance on any PGA Tour player and executive revisionist history.

Although the Tour has had a voice in the rule-making room for some time, the USGA and R&A agreed to give the circuit, as well as the PGA of America, more influence over potential changes when the organizations found themselves at odds during the anchoring debate a few years back. The Tour, which is represented on the rule-making front by senior vice president of competitions Tyler Dennis, may not have veto power over potential changes but it does have a prominent seat at the table.

For the Tour to dig in against the new rule, or at the least the rule’s ambiguous language, just as public opinion against it was poised to reach a crescendo, seems opportunistic if not duplicitous.

Ultimately the mistakes lie in not having a soft unveiling of these rules and perhaps a few fall events to work out the kinks, not necessarily in the rules themselves. At least, most of them.