ERIN, Wis. – The last two U.S. Opens, to put it mildly, have not exactly gone according to plan for the USGA. But chief executive Mike Davis insists the organization has learned from its recent miscues and is hoping for a “nice, smooth” tournament this week.
Erin Hills is a new venue for the USGA, just as Chambers Bay was in 2015. But two years ago the storylines were dominated by the poor condition of the greens and the browned-out look of the course, narratives that nearly overshadowed a memorable finish between Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.
Then there was the rules fiasco involving Johnson last year at Oakmont, one in which the leaderboard was held in limbo during the final round as officials huddled to determine whether or not the tournament leader would be penalized for the microscopic movement of his ball.
The USGA received plenty of criticism following both championships, especially after Oakmont where the damage was largely perceived as self-inflicted. Given another 12 months to assess and recover, Davis offered a candid explanation on the eve of the USGA’s marquee championship.
“If we’re being honest, yeah, we’re human. We know we’ve had some issues the last two years,” Davis said. “I think we’ll look back at those (events) with a lot of fond memories. But yes, there are some things that of course we had some issues.”
Several officials, including Davis, came under fire in the wake of last year’s imbroglio. While he insisted that the USGA has “learned from” mistakes made last year, he added that the ripple effects from that incident were not limited merely to those who were closely tied to the ruling itself.
“It affects the whole organization,” he said. “By that I mean that anytime your competency comes into question, that affects the people that are doing our equipment testing, the agronomic people on the greens section, our people in dealing with the history of the game and helping to grow the game. So of course, we want to avoid those things. But sometimes things happen.”