USGA's Mike Davis on the Anchored Putting Ban, the Merion Open and Growing the Game: The Golf Magazine Interview

Mike Davis, USGA executive director, US Open 2013
Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated
In addition to his administrative duties, Davis also sets up the course for the U.S. Open.

Speaking of problems, let's talk about some criticism that the USGA has received. Jim Furyk told me he likes the way you set up a U.S. Open course, but he had issues with the way you moved the tee up 100 yards on the par-5 16th hole at Olympic Club last year. [Furyk snap-hooked his tee shot into the woods and bogeyed the hole.] He said he's never seen a great par 5 that asked you to hit two hybrids and a wedge to the green. He also said he's never seen a great par 5 that was over 600 yards.
First of all, Jim can't be a bad guy because he's a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. [But] I would respectfully disagree with Jim on this. The hole requires three good shots. And there's nothing wrong with a par 5 that requires a Tour-level player to hit three good shots to get to the green. They see a par 5 and want a green light to make a birdie.

What about moving the tees up 100 yards?
We want to test not just their shotmaking and their nerves, but we want to show them something, and particularly on that last nine holes Sunday, where they're going to step up and think, "Hmm. I didn't practice this." And it's not just the player; it's the caddie. I remember walking with Tiger, the last round in 2008, at Torrey Pines, when he got to the 14th hole. And we'd moved the tees way up there. He stood there on that tee talking to Steve Williams for I don't even know how many minutes. Because here he's tied, I guess, with Rocco, at that point, and to watch Tiger and Williams strategize -- to me that's part of the U.S. Open.

You mentioned you gave players the short par-5 17th hole after the hard par-5 16th at Olympic, but the problem was no one could hit the tilted fairway. That was another criticism of the setup at Olympic, that the fairways were so tilted and fast and narrow as to be almost unhittable. The data shows as much.
But the thing that the data isn't showing [about Olympic] is that unlike '55, unlike '66, unlike '87, unlike '98, we didn't have real thick rough right up against the fairway on the right. We doubled the amount of the intermediate rough.

That's one of your calling cards, the graduated rough.
I wouldn't even call it rough. The ball is sitting up. For most amateur golfers, they would rather have that lie than be on those tight fairways. I saw a lot of players playing from that first cut, and they absolutely could go for the green.

One of the things you've said you aim to do is to make golf more fun and more accessible. We're in the middle of this debate on anchoring. Doesn't taking away our long putters and belly putters make the game less fun and less accessible?
Well, good question, because you can see how people would think that. We are simply trying to define the way that golf should be played. For hundreds of years, golf was about taking a club, putting a ball into play and seeing how many strokes it takes you to get it in the hole. And while some people say, "Hey, I have more fun anchoring," we're simply saying, "We don't think that's golf." It's fun if you go out there with 25 clubs, but that's not playing by the rules. You could go out there and putt billiards style. We had somebody doing that in the final match of the 1895 U.S. Amateur. Anchoring didn't become popular in this country, and only with a certain group of players, until very recently. You can't say that golfers for the last 550 years didn't have fun. You can have fun without anchoring. Now, people can go out on a golf course and have fun, take mulligans, play with three clubs, play with an eight-inch hole -- we're not saying we have a problem with that.

The USGA has been around for a long time. Why wasn't anchoring banned when it should have been banned? Are you really in the business of banning something because it becomes popular?
That's a fair question. If you think of any rules change, you are thinking about the future. When we make a change, we think it's in the best interest of the game longterm. To say that those people before me, and the committees before us, liked anchoring, would be a misstatement of fact.

Why didn't they do anything?
Well, they certainly looked at it.

They made things harder for you by not doing anything about it.
Well, that's certainly true. But when you look back, [anchoring] was done by far fewer people before. As we said in the announcement, the vast, vast majority of people who anchored years ago did it because they had lost their nerves or they were taller and couldn't bend over.

Now you're concerned about guys who could putt conventionally but don't.
We have seen a fairly radical change in that. You were not seeing instructors or golfers themselves, who weren't in one of those two groups, advocating going to an anchored stroke. Five or six years ago we weren't seeing anyone in the U.S. Junior doing it; hardly anyone in the U.S. Amateur did it. And now all the sudden you're seeing instructors doing it, teaching it. Now it's a game changer.

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