PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The USGA defended the “collaborative effort” that included the PGA Tour in its modernizing of the Rules of Golf but also pledged Sunday morning to “redouble its efforts” to include players in ongoing adjustments to the new rules.
John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships, appeared on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive in the wake of growing PGA Tour player complaints about the Rules of Golf during this weekend’s Honda Classic.
“It’s very clear there is a certain level of discomfort with some Tour players, certainly not all, and we are working to address that with certain rules,” Bodenhamer said. “We know we have more work to do.
“With the amount of change this was, we thought there would need to be clarification, and there still will be. We are only eight weeks into this. Things are going to continue to happen. We are going to have to continue to talk about it and engage with players. That’s the key, and we are going to make a concerted effort to do that, and to continue to do that throughout the season.”
Rules controversies were a big storyline in the PGA Tour’s start to 2019, and it only heightened during this week’s Honda Classic.
Rickie Fowler mocked the knee-high drop rule in Thursday’s first round, pretending to drop from a squatting position, as if over a toilet. Justin Thomas was frustrated after he bent his 9-iron against a tree Friday, with the new rules not allowing him to replace the club. Alex Cejka made history that same day, becoming the first PGA Tour player to get disqualified for violating the Rules of Golf’s new limits on green readings materials. Player partner Ryan Palmer called the incident “B.S.” because he believes the new rule was a half-measured compromise, and the USGA should have either completely banned greens reading materials or kept the former limits in place.
Thomas was particularly aggressive Saturday in expressing his frustration with the new rules, tweeting out that he hopes “the USGA starts communicating with the current players to better the game and the sport.”
Totally agree... I more so say things in hopes that the USGA starts communicating with the current players to better the game and the sport. The rules are rules, no getting past that. Just hoping going forward, communication is had and ALL GOLFERS benefit from any changes 👌🏽 https://t.co/86TE7L8AnR— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) March 2, 2019
The USGA’s PR twitter account responded by calling Thomas out on Twitter, explaining, “Justin, we need to talk, you’ve canceled every meeting we’ve planned with you, but we are reaching out again.”
Justin, we need to talk. You’ve cancelled every meeting we’ve planned with you, but we are reaching out again. We were at the first 5 events, and tournaments last year, and your tour has had a seat at the table for 7 years. We’d love nothing more than to give you a seat. Call us.— USGA PR (@USGA_PR) March 2, 2019
Bodenhamer said he exchanged messages with Thomas Saturday night after those tweets went out.
Justin, thanks for connecting with us offline. We look forward to meeting with you and talking through these issues. It's clear we both want to do what's right by the game.— USGA PR (@USGA_PR) March 3, 2019
“I’m going to continue to reach out early this week,” Bodenhamer said. “We are in touch with him frequently, some of our staff is. He’s a former Walker Cupper. We feel a close bond with him. Look, it’s clear, I’m sure to everyone, that direct communication is the best way to go. That’s where we’re going to go with this.
“We are going to talk with Justin, and we are happy we will have an opportunity to have a conversation in a few days, hopefully.
“Look, we will do whatever it takes in cooperation with the Tour. Our staff will redouble our efforts, and really anything we are asked to do, to engage and explain the why behind some of these changes. It’s a few they are concerned about. We just need to redouble our efforts on those and make sure we understand and listen to what they’re saying. I promise we will do that, for sure."
Bodenhamer said the USGA was pleased with the PGA Tour’s involvement in the modernizing of the rules, in the long process required to simplify new rules before they went into effect this year.
“It really has been a good collaborative effort over seven years, including into this year,” he said. “We are grateful for that and certainly can’t give enough kudos to the Tour for building on those relations.”
Bodenhamer also pointed out the USGA has reached out to PGA Tour players this season, and that there was a long feedback period in effect.
“Through the early part of 2019 we have attended, I think, most if not quite every Tour event and further engaged players, one on one, and in groups, helping explain the why behind the changes. I think that was the most important thing, to really try to explain the why, and really seek feedback and listen. We’ve had some very positive discussions, considerable insight, and we will do more. We will redouble our efforts to do more.”