If the image of a staid USGA official clad in a blue blazer comes to mind, think again. If the USGA seems a tad stuffy at times, this is not one of those moments.
The only rule the USGA has when it comes to Open groupings is that the reigning Open and British Open champions are paired together along with the current U.S. Amateur champion if that player has not turned pro. But other than that, any grouping is fair game.
Its the most enjoyable day at the USGA all year, Davis said. Thats when it gets to be so much fun.
Last year at Torrey Pines presented perhaps the most high-profile grouping, at least during Davis short career as the director of rules and competition.
Woods and Mickelson had always been at the opposite end of the draw and thats kind of crummy, Davis said. So I got to thinking, why not just put them in the same group?
For good measure, Davis & Co. threw third-ranked Adam Scott in the mix for a Nos. 1, 2, 3 three-ball. And while that all-world threesome may have been the most contrived Thursday-Friday grouping, it was hardly a one-off occurrence.
Check this years tee sheet and while many of the groupings may look random, Davis concedes they are anything but.
Well put three really long hitters together and three maybe three shorter hitters together. Maybe three players that have a certain history together, Davis said. We always have some laughs when we are doing it.
Davis and his staff separate the U.S. Open field into different categories: Tour player, international player, qualifier, etc. For the most part the groupings are put together to create balance, but inevitably the prankster in Davis surfaces and we get two Singhs (like this years 7:44 a.m. pairing off the first tee that features Vijay and Jeev) or two Romeros (check the 8:17 a.m. group off the 10th tee on Thursday that features Andres and Eduardo) or an all-Clemson group (1:03 p.m. off first tee, Lucas Glover, D.J. Trahan and amateur Kyle Stanley).
Every once in a while hell get me. There are a couple in there that I have no idea why they are together, said James Hyler Jr., chair of the USGA championship committee. But there are always a couple of zingers.
There are general guidelines. Davis said he will not put a group of slow players off early or place an amateur in the group with Mickelson or Woods, a difficult arena for the most hardened Tour pro let alone a young unproven talent.
By noon Davis said the pairings are complete and he sends a copy to USGA headquarters and NBC Sports for review.
At the end of the day you want interesting pairings, but you dont want them to get goofy, Davis said.