We imagine this is not what the USGA envisioned for its rollout campaign.
In January the governing body, along with the R&A, implemented the latest revisions to the Rules of Golf. Alas, the launch, at least at the professional levels, has been a PR disaster. A number of high-profile players—including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Tony Finau—have ridiculed many of the guidelines, both new and old. Perhaps Finau best summed up the collective sentiment when commenting on an incident involving Fowler at the Waste Management Open: “This is not what the integrity of the game is about.”
Even the R&A appears to side with the players, as chief executive Martin Slumbers remarked on Tuesday, “I think it’s fair to say that it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked,” just days after USGA CEO Mike Davis said at a conference, “From my perspective, I would say by and large they’ve been a huge success.”
This week’s Honda Classic has not doused those flames. On Thursday Fowler mocked the new stipulated drop height by simulating a bowel movement, while Thomas said he thinks the rules “are terrible” during a press conference. Following his third round at PGA National, Thomas doubled down on that assertion after Adam Schenk was penalized for his caddie allegedly lining him up…in a bunker.
After a Twitter user suggested that the new rules aren’t that hard to follow, Thomas attempted to give his perspective:
A note that grabbed the attention of the USGA. The Public Relations account for the group responded in kind to the 2017 PGA champ.
“Justin, we need to talk,” read the USGA statement. “You’ve cancelled every meeting we’ve planned with you, but we are reaching out again. We were at the first 5 events, and tournaments last year, and your tour has had a seat at the table for 7 years. We’d love nothing more than to give you a seat. Call us.”
A Golf Digest request for comment to the USGA on the matter has not been returned at this time.
For his part, Thomas seemed to put the issue to rest, at least for the night. “Enough Twitter ranting for me today. As anybody who follows me knows, I’m always honest and speak what’s on my mind. The intent of everything I say is to get the game of golf and the PGA Tour better. I enjoy/take pride in trying to do as much positive as possible. I’m out.”
While both players and the USGA and R&A have preached patience on the assimilation period, it’s clear—as the calendar turns to March—the sport remains in a contentious state with the latest jurisdiction. And the period has no end in sight.