The USGA played defense down the stretch of the U.S. Open, first responding to wide-spread criticism of the pace of play at Merion, and Sunday night, addressing complaints by Phil Mickelson that the 274-yard, par-3 third hole was unfair.
Mickelson, who made par on the lengthy layout in each of the first two rounds, a bogey on Saturday, and a double on his way to another heart-wrenching runner-up finish on Sunday, barked at a USGA official as he left the fourth tee.
“That’s terrible, 274 yards,” he said over his left shoulder. “We can’t even reach it.”
(Video: Golf Channel/NBC)
Later, executive director Mike Davis explained the reasoning behind the USGA’s decision to stick a flag on a green many guys could not get to with 3-woods.
“Well, let me start out by Phil is a class act. He was nothing but complimentary [all] week from the standpoint of he embraced this golf course, which is great. He saw all the architecture when he played the third hole today,” Davis told reporters after Justin Rose had clinched his first major victory with a two-shot win over Mickelson and Jason Day. “We set the golf course up today for a south wind, so you saw us move tee markers up. For instance, if you're playing the 18th hole, you're dead into what would be a south wind.....That's why we didn't go to the back tees.
“When we got to the third hole, we were really getting a westerly, even a northwesterly wind, so it played long," David went on. "It played longer than we would have, but having said that, it was a back hole location that was the most receptive on the green, we felt that it could handle 3‑wood shots, if need be....We wouldn't have put the tee markers back where we did had we known we were going to get that wind.”
Davis’ appearance before the media was not the first time Sunday that the governing body of United States golf was forced to explain itself. During the tourney, USGA president Glen Nager went on NBC to defend the organization, which debuted a massive anti-slow-play campaign prior to the tournament, for not issuing penalties to players who were less than fleet of foot on the tough, tight track.