Road Noise from Colonial

By Casey BiererMay 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editors Note: GOLF CHANNEL business reporter Casey Bierer hits the practice ranges, putting greens and tour trailers of professional golf to speak with company owners, tour reps and players in this new series, Road Noise.
 
This week, Casey reports recent business and equipment news from the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial being played in Ft. Worth, Texas.

 

Adams Golf / David Sticky Williams, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Adams BTY driverWhen it comes to maintenance on Bernhard Langers clubs, typically on any given week, its working on his lofts and lie angles on his wedgesmaking sure they are correct. We also just made an alteration to the length of Bernhards driver. He plays the Insight BTY. We took it down from 45 to 44 . The beauty of this head is in the weight cans we have in them; these allow me to adjust swing weight. And thats our focus with these weightsswing weight and not directional control. So as a result, I can just butt cut the shaft to length and add more weight to the head and it is right where we need it to be. Thats what is great about these heads. I dont have to pull the head off the shaft and as a result the playing characteristics are going to stay very consistent with what they were prior to shortening the length of the shaft. The other thing thats kind of cool is I brought our new Idea a3 Boxer hybrid out here just expecting guys to take a look at it, not necessarily play it. You know, this is our new consumer hybrid. Most of the guys out here play or Idea Pro hybrid. So I was kind of surprised when, for example, Billy Mayfair tested one and kept it. Now whether or not hell put it in play this week I dont know. But to be quite honest, the response has been really good. And the only limitation for me out here on TOUR is that the current retail version of the Idea a3 Boxer doesnt have the weight cans that I can adjust. But, there is a version coming soon that does have the weight cans. But, even thought I dont have the same options in fitting right now that I have with the Idea Pro, guys seem really impressed with the new club. From a flight characteristic standpoint, this new hybrid offers everything I was hoping for and them some.
 
Aldila / David Rookie Williams, PGA TOUR Representative
 
We have a new shaft coming out called the DVS and I was working with Charles Howell last week and he switched to it. Its a brand new product that we just took out on TOUR. Boo Weekley just switched to it as well. Getting to work with guys that havent previously been in one of our shafts is kind of fun. This new shaft is going to come in three or four different gram weights. Its a butt stiff, low torque profile shaft designed for guys that want to launch it high but also need a little bit of extra spin. You know, you hear a lot about guys trying to take spin off their driver shots out here, but some guys actually need a little bit more spin because the right amount of spin is what keeps the golf ball up in the air longer. So you cant just make the blanket statement that driver spin equates to distance loss. Its the correct amount of spin that leads to optimum driver performance. And in the case of this new DVS shaft, the ball is going to spin a little more off the driver than it would say with a NV or a Proto. The other thing with this DVS shaft is it probably has the smoothest bend profile from start to finish in the golf swing of any of the shafts weve offered out here. Guys are telling me how smooth it feels. Thats the word they use to describe it; smooth. So, Im excited to have this shaft out here. Guys are digging the feel.
 
MacGregor Bobby Grace Putters / Bobby Grace, PGA TOUR Representative
 
MacGregor Bobby Grace DCT PutterThe breakthrough technology that we have right now ' Distance Corrective Technology (DCT) ' is something we have never ventured in to beforesomething this technologically advanced. I mean, this is an advancement that I am thrilled was approved by the USGA because this technology absolutely makes a tangible difference in how the ball comes off the putter face. And in a nutshell, what DCT technology does is to create a sweet spot across the entire putter face so even when you hit your putt off the toe or off the heel the ball rolls the same distance. Like manufacturers for years have tried to increase the size of the sweet spot on drivers and irons, now weve figured out a way to increase the size of the sweet spot on your putter. Lets face it; even very good players dont hit the ball right on the putters sweet spot every time. And as a result, the ball will travel different distances even if the exact same force of strike is applied. Guys on TOUR that Ive tested this technology with have been amazed. And you can actually see this technology work. If you put our putter in a robot and have the robot make three putting strokes with the ball set in three different places on the face, the ball still rolls exactly the same distance. And the guys out here on TOURwell, most of them are pretty close to being robots when it comes to putting. So if you put them on a flat part of the practice putting green, then they know exactly how much force of stroke it takes them to roll their putt 10 feet, lets say. So just like the robot, we let them hit three putts to a hole 10 feet away with the ball hit in three different places on the putter face: toe, center and heeland yet the ball rolls exactly the same distance. When youre talking about a TOUR player that might have a putt that is 7 feet long and breaking 1 foot and he catches it just off his intended sweet spot and he loses 2 inches on the roll, that can be the kiss of death. On a 50 or 60 foot putt, if youre off the sweet spot that can result in three, four or even five feet left for your second putt. Guys out here dont like four footers on Sunday when the heat is on. So, if this new DCT technology can help produce more consistent distance control even when the ball is not struck exactly on the sweet spot, that is huge.
 
Callaway Golf / Barry Lyda, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Callaway FT5 driverRich Beem this week was tooling around in the tour trailer and he found one of Charles Howells returned drivers. And Rich went out and hit this driver and absolutely fell in love with it. Now, Charles never even hit this driver. We built it for him but he stuck with another FT-5 gamer so this driver Rich picked up had never been hit. But, it was made all to Charles exact specs: weight, swing weight, loft, shaft, gripeverything. So when Rich came in today he said I am keeping this driver and not only am I keeping it, I am not touching anything on it. Not even the gripIm keeping it exactly as isthats how good Im hitting it. So hes got it in the bag and thats an FT-5, neutral bias with 9 degrees of loft with a Diamana Blue Board 73 gram X flex shaft. And lets seewhat else. Oh, Olin Browne worked awfully hard this week getting ready. We got him back in to basically the same driver he won the Deutsche Bank Championship with two years ago. And you know, it is so nice to see Olin come back feeling healthy. Olin had a good week last week finishing in the top ten in only his second week out. And even with that good performance he said he didnt really drive the ball that well so thats why he wanted us to build him a new driver this week. So its kind of a new old driverits an FT-3, 9 degrees with an Aldila ProtoPype 60 gram X flex shaft. Thats just what he won with at Deutsche Bank. Olin seems to drive the ball better when the ball isnt spinning as much. He can kind of knuckle it out there with this ProtoPype shaftits so tip stable. So especially in to the wind he can kind of struggle if the ball is spinning too much. But in this driver and shaft combination hes hitting a pretty hot driver ball and that thing is running forever.
 
Odyssey Putters / Jon Laws, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Odyssey XG5 center shafted putterOlin Browne switched in to a new center shafted White Hot XG #5. He fell in love with it as soon as he picked it up and he told me he just made everything he looked at with it. Ive been working with Bob Tway with some Black Series and Tour Milled stuff. You know, it hasnt been that busy of a week here for me this week. I cant put my finger on exactly why, but I havent seen guys hitting hundreds and hundreds of putts on the practice green like they usually do. Lets see. I built a putter for Chad Campbell. Chad has been struggling with his putting lately and we are trying to help him out. He sees that we have five or six guys in the top ten in the putting stats and thats not lost on these guys out here especially if theyve been having a tough time on the greens. Theyre not dumb. They look and see what the players are using who are putting well. And then theyre like, well, maybe I should give that a try. And Chads a good example of how things kind of go out here. My job is to get players to switch to our putters. Well, it makes sense for me to work with guys who arent putting that well and also work with guys who arent on our staff already. Because if I can put them in something and they start putting better, its good for everyone. Good for us, good for the playerits even good for the players primary sponsor because if the player putts well theyre going to play better and get more TV coverage. And in addition to trying to get new guys in the putter, it goes without saying that I stop and talk to every single guy who is already using an Odyssey putter and make sure they are happy with what they have. Sometimes a guy might want a fresh grip or even a different grip, or we might have make loft and lie changes to accommodate different putting surfaceswhatever the case may be. Its all about service out here and I think we do that very well both on the Odyssey side and the Callaway side.
 
Cobra / Chris Tuten, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Geoff Ogilvy just switched in to a new driver. Last year right before The Memorial he put the first Cobra driver in his bag he had ever played and then a couple weeks later he won the U.S. Open. And the shot I remember most from last years U.S. Open was the drive he hit on the final hole on Sunday when he striped it right down the middle. So, I only had to make him a better driver than thata pretty tall orderso a little pressure on me to say the least. But, I think we just struck gold here with the new Cobra Speed Pro D. The D stands for deep as in a deep face. Its a 9.5 degree head and the actual loft started at about 10.5 degrees but we opened it up a degree so the effective loft is really 9.5. The shaft is an Aldila VS Proto 80 grams in an X flex. Its tipped 1 at 44 in length and the swing weight on that is D 1 . Hes told me the trajectory is just a little bit flatter which he likes. Geoff has a very high launch with very low spin so any way we can get the ball down a little bit is good for him. And hes hitting it just a little bit longer than his old driver and he feels like he is able to control it better in different conditions. As far as the shaft goes, when you start getting in to the heavier shafts like Geoff likes, the tip has to be very stable or it will kind of whip around down there. And Geoff has always played pretty strong stuff. His iron shafts are the old Rifle Frequency Matched 7.3 shafts. Thats an old Royal Precision shaft that has steps in itnot what we know now as a Rifle with no steps. So he plays pretty heavy and stiff stuff throughout his bag so this new driver fits right in there. And were all happy because now he has a driver in his bag that we are currently selling at retail and his driver performance has improved so its a win win for everyone. Lets see, what else. We just put J.B. Holmes in to a replacement set of forged CB irons. They are very similar to what he was playing before but they have a little bit more bounce which he likes due to his steep approach in to the ball. This is the same grind that Camillo Villegas plays and also Jason Gore is playing right now. And on Jason, he is not a signed staff player of ours. Currently he has no equipment contract deal. As Im sure you and your readers know he recently left his former equipment company and hasnt made a deal anywhere yet. So, he can literally play anything he wants and its a nice compliment to our products, I think, that he has our stuff in play. Theres a lot of great stuff out there that he has to choose from so the fact that he has our driver and irons in play is pretty cool. He asked for a Cobra bag which we were happy to give him as well. So while he is not a signed staff player we are thrilled to have him involved with our company. Jason is just a great guy.
 
Mizuno / Jeff Cook, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Mizuno MP 67 ironsWell, this week was kind of slow for us because we didnt have our tour van here. And this happens every once in a while. So when my van isnt here I usually work out of the True Temper van. And this happens every once in a while out here on the PGA TOURwe try to help each other out. I think the TaylorMade van got stuck in Atlanta this week so they were in the same boat. And lets see, last week I think we did quite a bit of maintenance work for our staff players: loft, lie angle, fresh grips, that kind of thing. One interesting thing from last week was that our engineers came out to get statistical information from the entire staff on irons. And what they do is set up the launch monitor on the range and each player hits their gamer 9-iron, 7-iron and 3-iron. And the engineers collect that statistical data and then also carefully watch ball flight and shot tendencies and they make all these very detailed and specific notes. They also do this same thing with groups of amateur players using our irons in different handicap ranges. I think they go zero to 9-handicap, then ten to 15-handicap. And what they are doing is taking this data they get from current in-line product and compare it to the numbers they get on new products coming down the road to make sure the changes they are making in what will be our new irons are making the irons actually perform better. Because it doesnt do any good to come out with new stuff if the new stuff isnt better. I wouldnt want to go to Luke Donald and ask him to try a new set of irons if I didnt know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the new irons would out perform what he already has in his bag. And the engineers coming out here on tour and collecting data, and then also collecting data from amateur golfers and comparing that to the data on the as yet unreleased product helps them validate that they have made the correct decisions in connection with new designs. I think they take a particularly close look at the information as it relates to CG (center of gravity) because in a high-end forged product like ours, and especially with our patented Grain Flow Forged products, moving the CG around even by very little degrees is going to affect ball flight. So its kind of neat to see how that all works.
 

Nike Golf / Rob Burbick, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Nike CCi forged ironsWell, Casey, you know this week at Colonial is like a home game for us because our TOUR department is headquartered just ten miles down the road in Ft. Worth. So, its a fun week for us because all the guys from our staff who are here this week head over to the office and check out some new stuff and some long term projects that we are working on. We try to involve our staff players as much as possible and get their feedback as early in the design and development process as possible because they are the ones who will be working with the prototypes long before a product is ever readied for retail. So they are over there at HQ this week looking at our next generation of product. Highly, highly secret I might add. As much as we like you, Casey, I cant tell you what this new stuff is. So, its not secret to them but it is secret to everyone else. And not only will they look at new stuff they will get to hit some new stuff. And well record all the data from the launch monitors and what not to make sure we are headed in the right direction. So this really wasnt a big build week for me on site here at the tournament. The real story is pretty much the whole staff heading over to the office, having barbeque, seeing renderings of stuff thats way off in the future, hitting prototypes of stuff thats not too far down the road and then generally giving us their impressions about how were doing and what else they would like to see from us. And, you know Casey, if you feed these guys good barbeque their pretty happy with everything else anyway.
 
PING / Matt Rollins, PGA TOUR Representative
 
PING Rapture driverShigeki Maruyama has been working on drivers this week at Colonial. He has been trying just about every driver he can get his hands on out herefrom all the companies. He has been really searching lately for something he can hit. But I think he may have settled on a PING Rapture with the new Aldila DVS shaft in it. Now I cant say for sure he is going to put it play, this being Wednesday, but I think hes pretty happy with it so well see tomorrow. And Ryan Moore put this Aldila DVS shaft in his Rapture head as well and he told me this thing is hotits not spinning the ball a whole lot and its releasing better for him than the set up he had previously. And not to sound like a broken record here, but Heath Slocumsame head, same shaft and hes picked up about ten yards. So we may have hit on a combination of head and shaft here that is going to prove to be a winner. So thats good news. And heres something that is kind of interesting. We didnt have anything to do with it, mind you, but Bart Bryant showed up here at Colonial this week with a set i2 irons. He came over to the van and said hey guys, look what I pulled out of the closet. So, he was hitting them all day here today. I dont know if he is going to put them in play tomorrow but he sure was hitting them well and I wouldnt be at all surprised to see those in his bag during the tournament. Now another thing I can tell you is that Chris DiMarco has gone back to his Rifle Lite 6.5 shafts. Two years ago at Wachovia he switched to 7.0 Rifle Lite shafts. He felt like he needed to go to a stiffer shaft. And all along I have thought that the 7.0 is too stiff for him. And about three weeks ago we switched him back to the 6.5 flex shafts and there is no doubt he has played better. His ball flight is back up in the air at a higher trajectory which he likes, it doesnt go as hard right anymoreI mean he plays the cut but he wants it to be a gentle cut.and the 6.5 is allowing him to do that. So by going back to his old specs I would look for Chris to start playing much better again. And I hated to tell him this, but I had to tell himhey, I told you so. And he just started laughing. You know, Chris is a great player and hes working really hard right now so I just think it is a matter of time before he is back on form.
 
TaylorMade-adidas Golf / Paul Loegering, PGA TOUR Representative
 
TaylorMade Burner 3 woodFor starters, I dont have my TOUR van here this week. Our trailer broke down in Atlanta so I kind of feel like I am without a home out here this week. But, thats OK. It happens from time to time. So there was a lot of scrambling around here this week building clubs out of a bunch of different trailers. Its a good thing we all get along so well out here. But even without our trailer out here, we could not stop the barrage of requests from our staff players asking to try the TP version of the new Burner fairway wood. Weve had the regular consumer version of the Burner fairway wood out here and that surprised us by getting such a good reaction. So you can imagine the reaction we got from the TP version which is more designed for these guys to hit out hereor certainly for better players to hit. I fit Scott Verplank in to one yesterday. This 3-wood has a higher center of gravity than the retail model and the ball spins less so the trajectory is a little flatter. This makes the head really hot and the ball just rockets out there. And what else? David Toms is going to a new r7 SuperQuad this week. Lie angle in his driver has been a little bit of an issue with him lately. So we set this new driver up open and a little flat and set the weights up for a fade bias because he wants to go back to hitting that butter cut he always used to hit. You know, that ball that starts out just a little bit left and then when it gets to its apex it just ever so gently falls a little right. Last week the SuperQuad he was playing was too upright and the ball was going left on him. And you know, Casey, this is something your Golf Channel audience might not know much about. We always talk about lie angle in irons, but you never hear about lie angle in drivers. And while it might not be as critical because you hit your driver ball off a tee, it can still make a big difference in terms of how you are able to go after your driver. And TaylorMade was the first company to create molds and bending blocks to allow us to pre-bend loft and lie on drivers. What we can do is pre-bend heads before we put shafts in and its just another way that we can take custom fitting for these TOUR players out here to the next level. And the more the general golfing public learns about custom fitting and the importance of being properly fitted in to their golf clubs, lie angle on drivers is going to become more of a factor. The driver is all about launch and spin and you are going to optimize your dispersion if the lie angle is correct.
 
Wilson Golf / Ron Graham, PGA TOUR Representative
 
Wilson Dd6 driverWhat a fantastic win for Padraig Harrington at the Irish Open last week. That is like a major to him. To win at home like that. He worked so hard for that win and I know he must feel just as good as if he had won the Masters or the U.S. Open. That is really like his 5th major. And its great for the Wilson brand when Padraig wins like that. It validates the quality and integrity of our products and it makes other players sit up and take notice. You know, we have a pretty small staff nowespecially compared to what Wilson used to have when they completely dominated the professional golf scene. So when a player like Padraig, one of the worlds true superstar golfers wins, thats just great for us. We are trying to grow our staff slowly but surely. We added D.J. Trahan last fall and we will continue to try and add more playersmore U.S. playersthis fall and next year. You know, a player of Padraigs caliber is not going to play with equipment that he doesnt believe is the best equipment in the world. Padraig is a perfectionist. He expects the best out of himself and you can bet he expects the best out of his equipment. Hes also an unbelievably smart man. He has forgotten more about equipment than what most of the other players know. He had a lot to do, for example, with designing the Pi5 irons that he plays. As a result of his knowledge about equipment, hes picky. I dont mean picky in a bad wayrather, he knows what is good and what works and he knows what doesnt work. So when you consider all the great drivers out there in the market now, to know that Padraig has the confidence to play our Dd6 Plus driver is a huge boost to our efforts out on TOUR. Now what you might not know is that Padraig is using a 47 Harrison Striper long drive shaft. He has gotten longer and longer with his driver shaft over the last couple of years. Hes gone from 44 to 45 all the way up to now 47 . And the amazing thing is he says he hits this longer shafted driver even straighter. So its all pretty interesting stuff.
 

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.

 

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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.

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USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.



After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”



By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”



But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”



But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.