Davis Begins New Era for USGA

By Rex HoggardMarch 3, 2011, 1:45 am

USGA“My cell phone doesn’t work in my office,” Mike Davis laughed late Tuesday, sounding every bit like a 9-to-5er “nametag” chained to his cubicle somewhere in the New Jersey badlands.

Turns out the joke was on whatever wireless network failed to live up to expectations. Less than 24 hours later Davis was introduced as the seventh executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, a nametag that now elevates him to one of the four or five most influential people in our game.

Seems the entire golf world can hear him now, and that’s a triumph by any measure.

Not that Davis went quietly into the big office. “He was strongly advised to consider it,” said one USGA insider, which is corporate speak for professional arm twisting.

When asked recently about succeeding David Fay, who held the top spot for 21 years before his surprise retirement in December, Davis all but dismissed the thought. He’d been an “operations” guy his entire career, more comfortable setting tees and scoping hole locations down in the weeds than decreeing policy from 30,000 feet.

Mike Davis
Mike Davis has been with the USGA for 21 years. (Getty Images)

The arm-twisting must have changed his mind. Undoubtedly he was sold on the notion that right now, perhaps more than ever, the USGA needs a strong voice at the helm, a known commodity to replace Fay’s guidance. Maybe someone convinced him that he could do more good from the Ivory tower than from a golf cart adjacent Bethpage Black’s 18th green.

We called Davis on Tuesday to arrange an interview for later this year and ask about a possible change to the Rules of Golf that would soften the punishment for called-in violations – call it the Camilo Villegas-Padraig Harrington Accord.

“No,” he laughed before gushing, “but I’ve got to tell you it’s really been an interesting process getting everyone together and coming up with proposals and ideas. It’s been very enlightening.”

Now Davis takes that passion to a corner office with a view of Far Hills and golf is better for it. The 46-year-old husband and father is a single-digit handicap, a player blessed with the heart of a fan and the head of a pragmatist.

No? Consider the 2008 U.S. Open, as successful a national championship as has been played in some time. For months Davis went head-to-head with his bosses over Torrey Pines’ 18th hole. The establishment wanted to convert the par 5 to a par 4, but Davis held the line to keep it a classic risk/reward par 5 and prevailed. The result was one of the most exciting weeks in golf, with Tiger Woods using the stage for his greatest triumph.

“That’s what Mike Davis had in mind. That’s what he wanted,” yelled Rees Jones, the architect who worked with Davis to turn the South Course into a major championship venue, on Saturday when Woods rolled in his now-famous eagle putt at the 18th.

After 21 years combing the USGA’s fairways, Davis now brings that energy and institutional memory to Far Hill’s hallways, and make no mistake he bleeds USGA blue blazer.

There were moments of concern on Wednesday as news crept out that Davis had gotten the bump. Who would replace him on the U.S. Open frontlines? “I don’t know that the pipeline has that many great prospects,” said the USGA insider who asked not to be identified.

For his part Davis had made the players appreciate his even handiness, the ultimate compliment for a U.S. Open setup man.

“Good man and great setup philosophy,” Steve Flesch said. “Hope he continues in that role.”

Flesch and his Tour fraternity brothers will get their wish. Before the ink was dry on the new promotion USGA president Jim Hyler made it clear the association had no interest in reinventing the wheel.

“We would be idiots if we kept Mike from the U.S. Open activities. He will continue to be involved,” Hyler said.

The result of that common sense approach will be a hybrid executive director’s role for Davis, who will retain about 30 percent of his previous duties by one estimate.

He will still be involved in the selection and setup of all U.S. Open venues – in fact he’s scheduled to do a “walkthrough” at Congressional in early May, site of this year’s championship – but will leave the “conduct” of the USGA’s various other championships to others, most notably Jeff Hall who has served as Davis’ No. 2 at the last six U.S. Opens.

“There will be a few differences in my job to what David (Fay) did. I love the golf course setup part. I’ve said this before, but I’d pay the USGA to allow me to do this,” Davis said. “Rules and competitions are always going to be near and dear to my heart. That’s the way I grew up.”

Whether the powers that be made these concessions to sway Davis or simply conceded the truth that the association was better off with him on the ground, as well as in the big office, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they got the right man for the job – a pragmatist with passion.

“Throughout this process one person stood out for being the right person for the job, and that person is Mike Davis,” Hyler said.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."