Second Thoughts on USGA

Respect Issue Worse Than Previously Thought Between Players and USGA

I don’t think that most golf fans have the relationship between all the golf organizations straight. I know I have trouble keeping it all in line. I’ve been to the home of the USGA, as cool a golf building as there has ever been, save some of those snarky antique clubhouses in Scotland. The PGA oversees the tournaments on tour week to week, and the USGA makes the rules, right? No for one week for year, the rules people come in and stage the U.S. Open on some prestigious course such as Shinnecock. The players know what should be expected, playing week to week in numerous venues, but they seem to have a perennial problem with preparations as overseen by the USGA.

Will Gray, golf travel writer and Golf Channel staffer, has written an article that asks if player and USGA relations are at the breaking point. I didn’t realize that it had gone so far. He likens it to Charlie Brown, Lucy and the annual autumn football fail. It’s a crystal clear metaphor. Keep promising and yank it away. I remember the uproar over Chambers Bay a while back, a course with so many problems that it wasn’t really material for a major. For a long time, I’ve responded by thinking “Hey, you’re all playing on the same course. Lowest score wins. Too bad if you didn’t shoot a 63 today.” However, I missed an important point, and most of us do to some degree. By enlarge, we spectators, mostly from other professions, do not and cannot sense the subtleties and fine points of what a player rightfully comes to expect. A concert pianist who arrives at the hall to find the Steinway altered into a Pianos-R-Us model is going to know it immediately, and raise a fuss to beat all fusses. That, I suspect, is part of the player dissatisfaction – their Steinway got messed up. Mixed strains of grass on the greens of Chambers Bay? A bunker of the wrong angle, depth, and material?  I would never spot these or any other such flaw in a thousand years. A golf pro probably couldn’t miss it.
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The added complaint of complex rules dispensed unevenly, creating absurd situations, has long been a topic of discussion. Players have sounded off about Phil Mickelson continuing to play after the moving ball violation. No super computer will ever predict what might have happened next. The only way to know was to let the ball stop before playing the next shot. DQ seems the only way to go. To play it where it lies, it’s got to lie first.

Gray reflects player sentiment that the course and players have been disrespected. The two are unalterably linked, and disrespect for one automatically transfers to the other. The USGA is the temple of amateur golf. Perhaps the national tournament for professionals should be handled by the temple of professional golf. The country’s home tournament doesn’t seem like the place the PGA field should experience what Brandt Snedeker called “silly golf.” If players are indeed at the breaking point, intent on taking action, I am unclear as to the direction that would take. Are they unionized in such a way that the collective could force a change? Not showing up the U.S. Open when you’re eligible to compete is unacceptable. No one should be forced into that ethical alternative.

Flight Deals? No Problem! Find a flight on CheapAir.comBefore I heard all the voices, a little part of me wanted to call out “Snowflake” on the players for the way they handled disappointment. Today, I realize that they handle it much the same way as practitioners of other professions do, and that all walks of life expect to see correct preparations and oversight for what they do. So, keep that beautiful building going, and keep promoting the amateur game in America. Those are important missions. You know the ropes there, but if it’s time to play the Steinway, call the Steinway people to tune it for you.

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