View From The Loo: Oakmont Rebounds From Rain, USGA Apology Needs Flushed

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After torrential rain on Thursday, most worried that Oakmont would not return to its traditional form.  The Old War Horse would eventually bounce back into form and end up playing very difficult which is what the USGA and the Members of the course wanted.  My team was there covering it and we all can’t say enough about how well the course rebounded and what a great job the grounds crew and the USGA did with the Course.  With that said, the USGA stole the show on Sunday at a time they just needed to be the silent partner.  It was compelling golf, and their decision to not announce the results of their investigation was one of the most arrogant and ridiculous decisions we have seen From a Sports  Organization  in some time.  And that says something when you consider it would be competing for that honor with the likes of the NHL, MLB, and NFL.   First though, lets talk about the good that that was this past weekend.

Dustin Johnson would finally win a major, setting aside all of the past troubles he has had as he would play a very strong game for 4 days. Not to mention he would hold serve on Sunday while the Beast that is Oakmont would rise up from the wetness and eat most of the other competitors.

Oakmont Country Club is widely considered one of the most difficult tests of golf on the planet, regardless if it’s a US Open or a foursome on a random Thursday. So much so that the members are angered when the greens are slowed down to an 11 on the Stimp Meter, which by the way was invented after a gentleman wanted to measure the speed of all greens at tournaments after seeing the greens at Oakmont.

After the rains came and went on Thursday, we were left with a softer sided  Oakmont on Friday.  Though I would not mention that to those that did not make the cut including Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.  Rory was so angry he refused to talk with the media.

As mentioned, it was much easier to score on Friday and those scores suggested as much when as many as 13 or 14 players were in red figures at any one time.  When you compare that to the last trip here in 07′, Angel Cabrera would win the tournament at 5-over par.  There were scores as high as 7-under overall coming into the last round but the Ghosts of Oakmont’s past would rise up and drag the bulk of those high scores back down towards even.  So much so that only 4 players finished under par, three of which at 1-under.  Dustin’s 4-under was the result of him hitting nearly every fairway and green.  He played the best golf for four days and deserved the win.  What he did not deserve is the USGA taking center stage and pretend they were bigger than the event on Sunday.

The US Open Golf tournament is supposed to be the toughest test in golf and that is why courses like Oakmont are saved for major tournaments such as these.

The USGA released a statement today and here it is below.

“When you look back at the whole issue, you can break it down into two parts. It’s a rules of golf issue, of trying to make sure that you apply the rules correctly the way they’re written. And we do believe we did that,” Davis said. “But there’s another part of it in terms of the conduct of the championship itself, and that’s where we’d really like a mulligan because clearly we made a big bogey.”

The penalty ultimately didn’t factor into the final result, as it simply trimmed Johnson’s winning margin from four shots to three. But the controversy brought forth an avalanche of criticism from PGA Tour players and fans alike.

In hindsight, Davis said that he wished the officials had simply informed Johnson of his penalty on the 12th tee rather than leaving the field to navigate a series of what-if scenarios while looking at the leaderboards in crunch time.

“That really gets down to putting in essence the championship on the final day almost in limbo to where the players, and in this case Dustin, didn’t know where he stood in terms of a score,” he said. “That’s where, if we could do it again, we should have just applied the penalty once we looked at the video.”

Davis reiterated that the USGA stands by the penalty decision under Rule 18-2 and that they “absolutely” were correct to assess a one-shot penalty based on the video evidence.

“In this case, what it was was a timing issue. The championship deserved to have clarity at that time, and simply put, we didn’t provide that clarity,” Davis said. “We strongly believe we got the ruling right, we just didn’t apply it in the proper timing and sequence. And that’s where, as I say, I think we bogeyed, and for that we truly regret and furthermore apologize for the way that was handled.”

So Mike Davis says they got the call right, but the sequence wrong and they would like to have a Mulligan.  He went as far as saying they “bogeyed.”   One should point out that being “cute” does excuse or divert attention for the gaf that was made.  Just apologize, say you will learn from it and that it will not happen again.  That is all people want to hear.  Don’t over explain it because regardless how you do so, the majority of fans think you not only got it wrong but  that you were arrogant in your handling of the issue.  The organization is bigger than one tournament, but during that week of the season, they take a back seat and that is where they should have been on Sunday.

What the USGA did not want or anticipate was the outpouring of comments from the European players, all of which stuck up for Johnson and hammered the USGA for their handling of the matter.

In a day and age in which large and small organizations alike are trying to become more transparent so that they do not have to live with the drama and controversy when things like this happen, it seemed as if the USGA embraced and added to the controversy.

You did more than bogey.   Remember the 18th hole in the Movie “Tin Cup?” Yes, that is exactly what you did.  You made it ugly and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Kudos for Dustin Johnson for taking the high road and handling it as a professional.  It is just a shame he did not get the same from the organization that ran the tournament.

As a whole, the USGA were wonderful hosts for the Media, fans, and players alike.  But for a couple of hours on a Sunday Evening, all of the good kind of went away.

Catch more of my rants and ravings on the World of Golf in the coming weeks with my new weekly spot, View from the Loo.   You can follow me on Twitter @PittSportMonger.

Author: Jhavelka

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