The lead-up to the 119th United States Open has been chock-full of criticisms and warnings of the errors of U.S. Opens gone by.
From Golf Digest‘s anonymous “USGA Confidential” survey to virtually any player interview transcript that has raised a question about the USGA in recent months, golf’s governing body in the United States and Mexico has been coming under fire from all directions as eyes shift to Pebble Beach Golf Links this week.
Speaking with Golf.com on Monday, the USGA’s new senior managing director of championships, John Bodenhamer, who will be in charge of the course setup this week, said that he and his colleagues have heard the complaints and the criticisms, and instead of brushing them to the side, they are taking them into consideration.
“Well, we’re golfers too. We listen, we read. I think it’s important for us to listen to those voices, ” Bodenhamer said. “Rory (McIlroy)’s a past champion. There’ve been other past champions that have commented. I think we are listening and we are talking to a lot of our past champions. There’s a lot of players, not just past champions, who care deeply about the USGA and the U.S. Open.
“They’re rooting for a great U.S. Open, which we’re going to have this year. Sure, there’s some things people have said that have been critical, and we’re taking it all into account. We feel good about where we are and looking forward to a great U.S. Open.”
McIlroy hasn’t been alone in recent comments that have been critical of the USGA; both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods also spoke out at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
“We aren’t going to make all of (the players) happy, but they should understand that we aren’t trying to trick up the course or make it ridiculously hard,” Bodenhamer told GolfChannel.com earlier this year when it was announced he would be replacing Mike Davis as the course setup man. “As setup people, the last thing we want to be is the story. The last thing. We want it to be about the players and the golf course.”
“I think we are listening and we are talking to a lot of our past champions.”
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) June 10, 2019
One of the things Bodenhamer has stressed since taking over the new position is the role of communication between the USGA and the players. The USGA has even gone so far as to hire former PGA Tour player Jason Gore as a player relations director to help open the dialogue.
“I think (player communication) is something that’s a little bit different this year than it has been in past years simply because we have a player on staff now that we’ve not had before, Jason Gore, and he has been wonderful,” Bodenhamer said. “I think Jason’s been able to engage with players and past champions at a level of being a player.
“He knows those guys, he has relationships with them, he’s won on the PGA Tour. He has their respect, and they speak the same language from a player’s experience standpoint. I think that’s been really, really good because he’s informed our preparation and set up process. We just are really benefiting from that.”
Aside from Gore, Bodenhamer has also brought in three-time major champion and former World No. 1 Nick Price to assist with the course setup.
“Nick’s a former world number one, and one of the finest human beings ever, golfer or not,” Bodenhamer said. “He’s just one of the greatest people in the game. He’s coming this week and he’s going to be involved in our process as he has been. But I think that’s important listening to our past champions and having that perspective from Jason.
“This year we’ve been informed by other voices that frankly, in the past, we haven’t been. I felt it’s important and I think it’s helped us.”