USGA CEO Mike Davis will cede U.S. Open course setup responsibilities, beginning with this year's tournament at Pebble Beach.
Golf Digest has confirmed the news first reported by Golf Channel that Davis is voluntarily stepping aside and handing the reins to John Bodenhamer, the senior managing director of championships.
“This decision has been in the works for more than two U.S. Opens,” Davis told Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz. “Whether people want to believe that or not, that’s for them to decide.”
Davis is referring to the controversy at last summer's Open at Shinnecock Hills. Davis and his team were accused of mismanaging the venerable Long Island links on Saturday, with pins in unreachable spots, their severity amplified by the wind. At the height of the craziness, Phil Mickelson purposely hit his moving ball on the 13th green, creating its own level of hysteria.
The conditions resulted in 19 players firing 78 or higher, with the final two groups finishing a collective 31 over par. The setup was considered by many to be unacceptable, especially given the errors of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock still fresh. Players were vocal in their outcry, forcing Davis to offer a public mea culpa.
"We want the U.S. Open to be tough, but this afternoon was too tough," Davis said that night. "It was a tale of two courses. Their were some aspects of this setup that well-hit shots were not rewarded but penalized.
"Frankly, we just missed it with the wind. The greens got fast. The firmness was OK, but the speed was too much."
Combined with issues from the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay (green conditions) and 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Dustin Johnson ruling), the mistakes were beginning to pile under Davis' tenure. Davis, who will continue to serve as the governing body's CEO, maintains he would have given up this task no matter what happened in 2018.
"Absolutely," Davis told the Golf Channel. “I told our [executive committee] president and our next president this was happening long before the Open at Shinnecock.”
“It’s frankly been in the works for a few years,” Bodenhamer told Golf Digest. “Really it goes back a few years when we changed our bylaws to really make our executive director the CEO of our organization. That had always been our president. It changed the role quite significantly. We’ve been talking about some reorganization and restructuring of our senior staff for some time. It’s something over the last two or three years we’ve talked about intensely. … It’s just going to allow Mike to be what Mike needs to be, a CEO, and focusing on the truly important major issues that the USGA is impacting as it pertains to benefitting the game.”
Bodenhamer, 57, has worked with Davis on the setup since coming to the USGA full time in 2011.
“I’m excited. Mike is a close and dear friend. He has done a remarkable job over the years. I’m honored and humbled. There’s a great responsibility there. It’s important that we keep our DNA. We’ll be the U.S. Open. All of our championships are the ultimate tests, the toughest tests. We’ll keep that. It’s about the players and the great golf courses we play. That’s what it’s really about.”
Additional reporting by John Strege