Imagine a US Open without stars like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka? It almost became a reality two years ago, according to a Golf Digest story.
The monthly golf magazine interviewed 57 players for the story that appeared in its June edition. The comments were candid, and in some cases scathing towards the United States Golf Association (USGA). The organization is the governing organization of golf in the United States and Mexico. While the USGA runs several amateur and professional tournaments a year, including the US Women’s Open and the Men’s and Women’s Amateur, it is the US Open that is its marquee event.
Officials with the USGA try to set up the golf courses for the nation’s championship to be a difficult, but fair test. Former USGA president Sandy Tatum heard the deafening complaints about the course set up at Winged Foot in 1974.
His reply to the criticism was epic.
“We’re not trying to humiliate the best players in the world,” Tatum said. “We’re simply trying to identify who they are.”
Line Between Difficult, Impossible
The last few years the voices of dissent by the golfers have gotten louder and louder. At Shinnecock in 2018 Phil Mickelson was so frustrated with what many golfers classified as impossibly, fast greens, that he hit his ball as it was rolling back to him.
“Look, I mean no disrespect by anybody,” Mickelson said at the time. “I know it’s a two-shot penalty, and at the time I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.”
Golf Digest talked to one golfer, who said that the frustration was so high even before 2018, that 15 golfers nearly boycotted the major championship.
Quotes Not Flattering
Now with the US Open set for Pebble Beach in two weeks, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is trying to repair its reputation, but golfers aren’t letting the organization off that easy.
One major champion winner told Golf Digest, “You don’t get away with the mess-ups when you’re front and center saying, ‘We’re the masters of the game; we know what we’re doing.’ Well, they clearly don’t.”
Another major champion said, “The U.S. Open means so much to me and my family. The gap between the players and the USGA is bigger than it has ever been. There is a total lack of respect. And the USGA people brought it on themselves.”
Thomas Big USGA Critic
While all of the golfers in the Golf Digest story were anonymous, one golfer has publicly gone on the record with his displeasure of the USGA. Justin Thomas is one of the most vocal foes of the governing body.
One of the most vocal foes of the USGA is Justin Thomas. He told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday that he believes the USGA has a lot of room for improvement.
“It’s pretty obvious on where I stand with the U.S Open and the USGA,” Thomas said. “We’ve had our difficulties over the last six months. My frustration with them and the [course] setup at the U.S. Open stems from how the PGA Tour does such a great job setting up tournaments the entire year. We feel like the U.S. Open gets away from us, or gets out of hand almost every year.”