USGA’s Mike Davis to step away from U.S. Open course setup

January 3, 2019

For the first time since 2005, Mike Davis won’t be handling setup for the USGA at this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. And, since he knows you’ll be wondering, it has nothing to do with what happened at Shinnecock last summer.

The USGA told GOLF that it “continues to evolve its leadership structure” and that the plan for Davis to move further into his CEO role has been in the works for some time. After 13 years at the helm of course setup for golf’s national championships, Davis is ceding those duties to John Bodenhamer, who is becoming the organization’s senior managing director of championships.

“This latest set of changes provides functional ownership of all 14 championships to John Bodenhamer, all governance functions to Thomas Pagel, and other executive shifts that have been planned for some time to improve efficiency and leverage our internal expertise,” Davis told GOLF.

Mike Davis
Mike Davis has handled U.S. Open course setups since 2005.

Davis became the USGA’s first-ever CEO in 2016, which means he can pick his own executive team and set the USGA’s agenda. He will continue to be a part of the setup team in an advisory role, but Bodenhamer will be the face of the setups.

That designation proved to be a particularly touchy job in 2018, when the baked-out greens at Shinnecock made Saturday’s play exceptionally punishing. Zach Johnson’s comment that the USGA had “lost the golf course” spurred a slew of criticism. Players, sensing an easy target, piled on the USGA. But Davis insists that has nothing to do with the change.

“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 cited Erin Hills as the breaking point. “I was frankly stretched too thin, and especially stretched too thin U.S. Open week for other things I needed to be doing in my position.”

Above all, Davis emphasized to GOLF his desire to keep golf’s future headed in the right direction. “As stewards of the game, it is our responsibility to tackle the biggest challenges affecting golf’s future, and we’re now better aligned to prioritize the important work ahead of us.”

Bodenhamer was already in the public eye at last year’s U.S. Open on two notable occasions. First, he answered an extensive line of questioning on the ruling not to disqualify Phil Mickelson after Lefty’s bizarre putting antics on the 13th green. Next, he sat beside Davis as the two explained how Saturday’s course conditions got so severe. Don’t expect a radical shake-up in his first U.S. Open at the helm, however: he’ll be striving for a similar setup at Pebble Beach to the 2010 event set up by Davis, when Graeme McDowell won at even-par 284.

Bodenhamer also told Golf Channel of his desire for better communication with players.

“We aren’t going to make all of them happy, but they should understand that we aren’t trying to trick up the course or make it ridiculously hard,” he said. “As set-up 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.”