With the third major championship of the year only weeks away — the only one that is run by the United States Golf Association — the annual airing of grievances about the governing body is beginning to take place.
This year more than ever, eyeballs are fixed upon the USGA’s setup of Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most iconic layouts in the country, especially given the Phil Mickelson debacle that occurred when the six-time U.S. Open runner-up hit a ball that was still moving on a speedy Shinnecock green.
As a result, GolfDigest.com’s John Huggan and Brian Wacker were able to speak to 57 people who are “intimately involved in the game,” including 35 current Tour pros (16 of which are major champions), caddies, coaches and analysts to get their unfiltered opinions on the growing gap between those who make their living in and around the game and the governing body that oversees it.
We interviewed 57 people, including 35 current players and 16 major champions, along with caddies, coaches and analysts to find out what they think of the USGA.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) May 28, 2019
Perhaps most surprising of all was the intimation that top players, including Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were so fed up with the USGA that they were willing to boycott the U.S. Open.
Here’s a snippet of some of the anonymous responses from the full report, which can be read here.
The USGA As Tournament Hosts
MULTIPLE MAJOR WINNER, INCLUDING THE U.S. OPEN: They’ve had a bad run of golf setups, of decisions, and in some cases, golf courses. They know this is a bad time. Controversy is killing the major championship.
TEACHER OF MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPIONS: They’re amateurs who think they know it all—a dangerous combination.
TEACHER OF MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPIONS: I don’t understand why we can’t have a U.S. Open where the greens actually have living grass on them. Why do they turn up at venues insisting they know how to take care of a course when they don’t? Last year at Shinnecock, they had a meeting early in the week with the top superintendents from other Open venues. The USGA was told the course needed water. They just don’t listen to people who know what they’re doing.
The Rumored U.S. Open Boycott
WINNER OF MORE THAN 10 PGA AND EUROPEAN TOUR EVENTS: It will only take player power to turn the tournament on its head. If you had a majority of players say they’re not playing—and that nearly happened a couple of years ago—if that doesn’t set alarm bells ringing, then nothing will.
MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: We had about 10–15 guys who were willing to sit out after 2016. Some of them were big names—Dustin was one, Rory was another.
ANOTHER MAJOR CHAMPION AND FORMER WORLD NO. 1: I was prepared to do it [take part in a boycott]. Absolutely.
ANOTHER MAJOR CHAMPION: I was one of them.
MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: I would have boycotted if it had come to that. If it wasn’t a major, I wouldn’t play it, and a lot of other guys feel that way.
MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: I figure we needed about 25 guys, and I think we could have gotten there based on what I was hearing from players. Really, just one would have done it, but Tiger wasn’t playing at the time. Without us, they don’t have a tournament.
U.S. Open Setups: Tough Vs. Fair
MULTIPLE MAJOR WINNER, INCLUDING THE U.S. OPEN: The players want tough, but they want fair. When I played, a lot of players complained, but it was fair. It was tight fairways, deep rough and hard, fast greens. But those greens ran at 9½ [on the Stimpmeter]. Now it’s 14½, or more.
MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPION, INCLUDING THE U.S. OPEN: The Stimp is a culprit in all of this, because there’s a common ambition to get the greens as fast as possible. It’s no wonder the longest rounds of the year are at the U.S. Open, because you can’t go tap in a two-footer. You have to mark it, and you have to be careful and take your time and concentrate.
FORMER U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: It’s pin positions that you look at and think, Is this over the edge? And when you do that, it’s over the edge. And they have 12 every day like that.
Lot to digest in the Players Confidential on the USGA: confirmation of the proposed U.S. Open boycott (that included Rory and DJ), what the field really thought of Phil’s quick-rake at Shinnecock, and if the U.S. Open can be saved https://t.co/BfRNLgRd0v
— Joel Beall (@JoelMBeall) May 27, 2019
MULTIPLE MAJOR WINNER, INCLUDING THE U.S. OPEN: All of this, in a roundabout way, is why Phil did what he did.
MULTIPLE EUROPEAN TOUR WINNER: Don’t drive the field mad to the point where one of the best players of the last 50 years is running after his ball and stopping it on the green.
MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPION, INCLUDING THE U.S. OPEN: Phil has had a thing with the USGA for a long time. That wasn’t a rash decision. He’s been wanting to do that for 10 years.
COACH OF MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPIONS: It was a big middle finger to the USGA.
What To Expect From Pebble Beach
CADDIE FOR MULTIPLE MAJOR-CHAMPIONSHIP WINS: I fear for Pebble. It was close to unplayable in the last round in 2010.
MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: In 2010, they were some of the worst greens I’ve putted on. They were so bumpy. Half of a green would be brown, half of it would be green. You’d hit one wedge, and it would one-hop over the back; you’d hit the next one, and it would land in a green spot and rip back 25 feet. I don’t know how much skill is involved at that point.
MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: Let’s not trick Pebble up. Let’s leave Pebble to be Pebble. It’s hard enough as it is.