USGA backtracks on rules Tweet directed at Justin Thomas: "He did not avoid a discussion"
It looks like the four-day, he-said-they-said battle between Justin Thomas and the USGA has reached a swift conclusion, and it could prove to be the easiest win of Thomas' career.
On Saturday afternoon, just after Thomas had carded a three-under 67 in the third round of the Honda Classic, the nine-time tour winner sent out a tweet that simply read "#growthegame @USGA." Also in the tweet was a photo of a press release sent out by the PGA Tour Communications team, which explained that a two-stroke penalty had been assessed to Adam Schenk, who committed an infraction in his second round the evening prior. Schenk and his caddie had violated Rule 10.2b (4) at the par-3 17th hole, where his caddie stood behind Schenk as he lined up a difficult bunker shot. Schenk's bogey 4 was changed to a triple-bogey 6, and his two-under 69 to a one-over 71.
Thomas was hardly the only tour pro to jab the new Rules of Golf, as many pointed out the confusion that has surrounded many of them, notably the rule that prohibited caddies from lining their player up and the new knee-height drop rule. Two days earlier, Rickie Fowler had mocked the drop rule in an, um, interesting manner. However you feel about the new rules, it wasn't a good look for anyone involved that two of the sport's marquee names were publicly criticizing them.
The USGA took notice, and in a somewhat out-of-left-field move replied to Thomas' tweet. "Justin, we need to talk," read the USGA statement. "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."
Thomas was confused by the statement, later calling it "a little shocking," and "inaccurate." His claims were solidified on Tuesday morning, when the USGA PR Twitter handle tweeted out, "After further and more direct conversations with Justin Thomas, we realize he did not avoid a discussion with the USGA nor cancel any meetings. We value his and all players’ opinions and are committed to a productive dialogue as the golf world adjusts to the modernized rules."
This seems to imply that Thomas was correct in saying the USGA's statement was inaccurate. As we later found out, a call had been set up between Thomas and a member of the USGA’s staff earlier this year, but it never took place. The USGA's senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer also told Golf Digest this weekend that "We all tried to connect, it didn’t happen, and we are happy that it now will."