U.S. Golf Association CEO Mike Davis touted the “mulligan” his organization received in finally returning to Shinnecock Hills. Fast forward to June and The Forecaddie can safely say Davis pumped the mulligan out of bounds. And his golf bag is out of golf balls.
By following a repeat of 2004’s course setup difficulties and blaming winds stronger than forecast – they were not – Davis’ credibility took a hit at Shinnecock 2018. As Paul Azinger said during Saturday’s Fox telecast, he opened the Sunday show reiterating that all issues were hole-location related. Davis shares those decisions with Jeff Hall.
Couple such high-credibility shots from the partner network with the organization’s debatable handling of the Phil Mickelson situation, and Davis appears very much on the hot seat. Unlike recent years when the USGA president and championship committee chair were highly visible, a telling message was sent early in U.S. Open week when new president Mark Newell did not join any press activities. Newell also let Davis take the job of opening Fox’s broadcast with a taped message, unlike his predecessor Diana Murphy. Championship committee head Stu Francis was seen partaking in setup duties, but they otherwise left Davis to fend for himself with media. That’s a far cry from 2004 when then-committeeman and future president Walter Driver was seen taking the seventh hole flag out of the green to stop play.
The Man Out Front has a feeling this shift in visibility is not a coincidence after years of attempting to “brand” executive committee members. While the CEO is to be commended for taking a more upfront role after facing criticism for hiding when Dustin Johnson ran into rules trouble, this year’s struggles will also be tied directly to Davis. TMOF heard from detractors Sunday hoping to see Davis take the fall for making a mess of Shinnecock Hills. Whether enough in the organization remember his role in righting the post-Tom Meeks era ship, and if that is enough to save his job, will likely be determined sometime later this year by the executive committee. He may just need the ultimate mulligan to keep his job. Gwk