Cleat Geeks

Off the Tee: Quicken Loans National

The United States Golf Association has done more to help the game of golf than could be written in this space. Let me start there. The organization’s mission to grow the game is sincere and should be valued by anyone who cares about the game.

Having said that, the USGA is in need of some good publicity after this past week’s U.S. Open, particularly the debacle involving eventual champion Dustin Johnson and a one-stroke penalty he was assessed during Sunday’s final round.

Photo by: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed it somehow, here’s the recap:

As Johnson stood over a par putt on the lightning fast 5th green at Oakmont Sunday, his ball oscillated slightly as a wind puff came through. Johnson backed off, talked to not only his playing partner Lee Westwood about what happened but also a USGA rules official walking with the group, explaining what happened.

The official asked if Johnson had addressed the putt, meaning grounding his club behind the ball, or done anything else himself to make the ball move, which would const. “No,” he replied. Westwood was good with that explanation, as was the rules official. Johnson made the putt and wrote down par and went on about his business of trying to win the tournament.

Well, that is until about two hours later, when a different rules official approached DJ on the 12th tee, informing him the USGA was reviewing what happened and that they might penalize him a stroke for it after all. But they’d decide after the round. Now he didn’t know if he really was 4-under par and leading by two strokes or actually 3-under par and up by one.

That’s sort of like going to Nick Saban in the third quarter of Auburn-Alabama, his Tide leading 16-10 and telling him “oh, by the way, Coach, we aren’t sure if that field goal you kicked earlier is going to count. We’ll decide for sure after the game.” It not only penalizes the player in question, but all the others in the competition, wondering whether their opponent really has the score the board says he has.

Those that aren’t hardcore golf fans that are still reading are probably laughing even more about golf now, how this silly of a rule even exists in the first place, never mind how poorly it was instituted in this instance.

It made a farce of things, and while it’s one thing to hear about it from a source like this website, it’s quite another when the top players in the game weigh in with sizzling takes. Here’s
a sampling from some of golf’s biggest stars as they watched what played out:

(By the way, go follow the Elk (@elkpga), he is one of the best follows on Twitter, golf or otherwise. Great takes.)

The USGA released a statement Monday in which the organization says it “regrets the distraction” caused by waiting until the end of the round for a ruling, but that it ultimately stands by the ruling that was made.United_States_Golf_Association_LogoCenter

This wasn’t even the only controversy of the tournament. After a rain delay of more than an hour in Thursday’s first rounds, players who had been forced to shelter inside vans and other cramped spaces for that time were sent back out and not allowed any sort of warm-up.

It’s the sort of decision that a group regularly conducting professional tournaments – the PGA Tour, for example – would simply not make.

The USGA hosts events in many age groups and types throughout the year, and particularly for amateur golfers, their events are pretty much the pinnacle to shoot for in the sport. But these sorts of issues in the conducting of the organization’s biggest event – played in primarily by professionals at the top level – clearly have hurt the feelings a lot of people have for the USGA, and perhaps golf in general.

And it’s hard to see how that helps grow the game.

Quicken Loans National this week

We didn’t talk much about this week’s PGA Tour stop, the Quicken Loans National. It’s the annual event hosted by Tiger Woods, who continues to be out recovering from various injuries and surgeries.

It brings players to the Washington, D.C. area and Congressional Country Club, host of numerous major championships, including the 2011 U.S. Open.

Rory McIlroy won that week, but like many of the biggest names in golf, he won’t be in this event as players catch their breath after the grueling test that was last week’s U.S. Open.

But, somebody is going to win, so here are a few names to watch:


JimFurykJim Furyk – Coming off a second-place finish at the U.S. Open and playing a classic course, the veteran has the right mix to do some damage here.

Marc Leishman – The big Aussie’s lone PGA Tour win came at the Travelers Championship in 2012. That event, like this one, was conducted the week after the U.S. Open. And he’s found the top 20 in three straight starts.

Justin Thomas – The young star is looking for his second career win after taking the CIMB Classic last fall. He tied for third at TPC last month and the Honda Classic in March.

Longshot – Aaron Baddeley – It’s gut shot time with this one, as the Aussie hasn’t trended very well since top 10s in Puerto Rico and the Heritage in March and April. His last seven starts have produced no top 25 finishes and four missed cuts.

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