June, 2012 — San Francisco, CA — By Carr McCalla, LGA Executive Director
Monday, 6/11/12 I’m heading to the Open a day earlier than I usually do. The USGA has revamped their pre-Championship preparation for rules officials and I’ve been asked to lead a group of officials on the walk-through Wednesday morning. As a consequence, I have a lunch meeting with Jeff Hall and Thomas Pagel of the USGA staff to discuss what needs to be accentuated at the Wednesday walk-through. I’m meeting some of the other officials that have been asked to participate as leaders early Tuesday morning to walk the course prior to our Tuesday lunch meeting. I worked the US Amateur at Olympic in 2007 so I’m pretty familiar with the course. That being said, there will be many more grandstands, concession stands, and hospitality suites at the Open than there were at the Amateur in 2007….which lends itself to many more opportunities for TIO (temporary immovable obstruction) interference and I want to be thoroughly prepared for our Wednesday morning walk.
We just returned from our Amateur Championship at TPC Louisiana last night, so I’ve had a pretty quick turnaround to catch my 3:30 flight to San Francisco. Should get in to SF around 8 PM Pacific time. I’m staying at a small studio apartment about three miles from the course. John Luffey, one of our former LGA Presidents and current LGA Board member, is also on the same flight today and will stay with me this week. He’s heading back Saturday morning and I’m taking the red-eye home around 12:30 AM Sunday morning after working Saturday’s round.
Just a quick note about our LGA Amateur Championship. It was a challenging week with no less than eight weather delays over the course of the four-day Championship. While we always strive to complete 72 holes in that Championship, truth be known we were very fortunate to be able to get 54 holes completed this year. New Orleanian Patrick Christovich took home the title, shooting eight-under par 208 to win by five shots over Brandon Aydlett of Metairie and Brandt Garon of Baton Rouge. I can’t say enough about the TPC Louisiana staff. They did a wonderful job of preparing the course under some extremely trying weather challenges.
Tuesday, 6/12/12 We got to our apartment around 9 PM last night and ate at a little Italian restaurant not far away. I got to bed around 11 PM and was at Olympic by 6:30 this morning. We have seven individuals that have been asked to lead the groups in the walk-through tomorrow morning and we had all made arrangements to be there early this morning to go out on the course together. We had breakfast and then headed out to the course. It took us about five hours and multiple discussions on various rules issues. Olympic is on a relatively small piece of property with a good many hills and it makes for a pretty good challenge to determine the logistics for the event. Some of the grandstands, concession stands, etc., have to be shoehorned in. As a consequence, many of the TIOs (temporary immovable obstructions) are tied in together to make one large TIO from multiple structures (i.e., a TV tower, grandstand, and concession stand, although three separate structures may be tied together by white lines to create one large TIO). We then had our lunch meeting with Hall and Pagel of the USGA staff to de-brief from our morning walk. We made a few suggestions based on what we had seen on the course and, as a consequence, some revisions were made to the ‘notice to players’ and the hole-by-hole sheets that will be handed out to the other rules officials tomorrow morning. There were a couple of places I wanted to re-visit after our meeting, so John Luffey and I went back out this afternoon to take a look so I could clarify in my own mind how certain rules issues should be handled.
When we got back to the clubhouse, I got bombarded with congratulations from some of the other rules officials regarding my Friday assignment. The assignments had been posted while John and I were still out on the course. I have Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson on Friday at 1:18 PM. Occasionally we are also assigned observers to stay in front of the group and inform the referee if he should expect a ruling or some unusual circumstance when he and the players get to their ball(s). If we have enough rules officials the ‘marquee’ groups typically are the ones that are also assigned observers. My observer will be Henri Wolbrette, one of our LGA Board members from New Orleans. We had made arrangements to have dinner with Henri downtown tonight so when I called to see what time made sense to meet, we joked about how two Louisiana ‘good ole boys,’ were going to be in some high cotton on Friday.
When we left Olympic the traffic was a tad heavy and we also got lost on the way back to the apartment…..so I called Henri back to see if we could take a rain check on dinner. John and I decided to visit the same Italian restaurant where we had gone last night and we were back to the apartment by 7:30 or so. I prepared my notes for tomorrow’s walk-through and it took me a bit longer than I had envisioned. Your colleagues are sometimes your toughest critics and I want to hopefully be able to answer any questions that come up tomorrow. I have both David Rickman, Director of Rules & Competitions for the R&A, and Mark Russell, Director of Rules & Competitions for the PGA Tour, in my group…….they are both super guys and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from our discussions tomorrow……that being said, I also want to be as prepared as I can be.
Wednesday, 6/13/12 We got to the course by 6:15 AM. We have another 6:45 meeting with Thomas Pagel to review what we’ll do on the walk-through. We discussed a couple of changes that were made based on our recommendations yesterday and proceeded to the rules hospitality area for the meeting with all of the other rules officials. We’ll have seven groups today with 10-12 people per group. Our 7:30 meeting lasted until around 8 AM, then we headed out to the course. The course walk took about four hours….it was really a productive exercise….the R&A started a similar walk-through a number of years ago and current USGA President Glen Nager was convinced it would be a good tradition to start at the US Open. Based on the positive feedback it received, I’m sure it will become an important part of our Open preparation in future years.
We had lunch at the course then headed back to the apartment to get cleaned up for the Rules meeting and dinner tonight. The meeting/dinner was held at the California Golf Club no more than 10 miles from Olympic. It’s an Alister Mackenzie (think Augusta National & Cypress Point) design that has recently been restored. It was gorgeous. I got there about 4:30 and was able to see a good bit of the course from the clubhouse. The meeting went well and I was back at the apartment by 8:45 and in bed before 10 PM.
Thursday, 6/14/12 I don’t go off today until 2:09 PM, so I slept in until almost 7 AM. We got to the course by 9 AM and went to rules hospitality to grab some breakfast. I have an 11:15 AM meeting with Emily von Doehren of the USGA. She oversees the USGA Regional Managers who are the liaisons to the state and regional golf associations. She is looking at some changes to the structure of her department and wanted to get my input on what the USGA could do better in terms of serving the state and regional golf associations. As we were eating breakfast, in walked Jack Fleck. Fleck had beaten Ben Hogan for the US Open Championship in an 18-hole playoff in 1955, right here at Olympic. He is now 90 years old but still pretty spry. We sat and visited for the better part of 30 minutes. He told us about the final round and playoff in 1955….he can still talk a blue streak…..but it was really a treat to listen to his stories. After my meeting with Emily we went to the merchandise tent to look around, then I headed to the locker room to prepare for my round today. I usually try to find a quiet place to review my hole-by-hole notes so I don’t get caught off-guard by an unusual circumstance. I headed for the ninth tee (we’re going off the first and ninth tees this year, as the ninth tee is right by the clubhouse while the tenth tee is a good ways away) about 15 minutes before my starting time.
My group today consists of Hunter Haas from Ft. Worth, Lee Slattery from England, and Tadahiro Takayama from Japan. After introducing myself to the crew and their caddies, our starter announced our group and we were off. All in all, it was a pretty uneventful round, but I did have a bit of excitement right off the bat. On the second hole Takayama hit his second shot over the green up against the grandstand. The grandstands are temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs). When they are close to greens, the USGA typically puts in drop zones to simplify the relief procedure and this TIO was set up in that manner. As we were going through the process of taking relief, he dropped the ball properly in the drop zone and the ball rolled a couple of inches outside the lines identifying the drop zone. When dropping in a drop zone, the ball can roll up to two club lengths from where it first touches the course when dropped and still be in play. When he saw that the ball had rolled outside the drop zone he quickly reached down to pick it up to re-drop. I said No..No..No..No. Fortunately the urgency that was in my voice is universally understood as he stopped before picking up the ball and I indicated to him that his drop had been proper and the ball was now in play.
On the 17th hole, the USGA has shaved down the area to the right of the putting green so that balls that don’t stay on the green end up a good 25 yards down that hill. Slattery hit a very good long bunker shot from one of the front left bunkers that hit a good 30 feet from the right edge of the green, checked up and slowly began rolling toward the right. About 30 seconds later it reached the edge of the green, picked up speed and ended up down the hill very close to a sprinkler head. He called me over and we determined that the ball was close enough to the sprinkler head that there was a good chance that the area of his intended swing would come in contact with the obstruction. He dropped it twice but both times the ball rolled more than two club lengths. On his second drop I indentified where the ball first touched the course and he then placed it there.
Our only other ruling was on the last hole of the day, the par three eighth. The eighth is 200 yards in length, uphill with the hole location in the very back today. All three players were just over the green in the rough with extremely delicate chip shots. Haas was first to play and he double-hit his chip. Often-times it’s difficult to see a double hit but there was no doubt about this one. The crowd let out a gasp and it was apparent all had seen what had happened. He made a good 10-footer on his next shot; the shot when the double-hit takes place is counted and there’s a one-shot penalty for the double-hit so he made a bogey on the hole. Tee shot, chip shot, one putt, and the one-shot penalty.
It was a long day for my guys today. Haas had an 81, Slattery a 79, and Takayama a 77. I headed for dinner after we finished in the scoring area. My feet are a bit tired, the course is quite hilly and I’ll be glad to get home and into the rack.
Friday, 6/15/12 My starting time today is not until 1:18 PM. I go off #1 so at least I won’t have to make the killer walk from #18 green to #1 tee. The walk up that hill just about did me in yesterday. While I’ve been fortunate enough to serve as a rules official at USGA events since 1998, I always get ‘butterflies’ before going out in our National Championship. Being with the marquee group of Woods, Mickelson, and Watson will no doubt cause those butterflies to get riled up a bit more. I saw Ted Scott, Bubba Watson’s caddy, yesterday and told him I’d be with his group. It will be nice to have a familiar face in my group today. Ted is a native of Lake Charles and currently lives in Opelousas. He has actually played in some LGA events in the past. He caddied for Paul Azinger early in his caddying career and has been on Watson’s bag for a number of years now.
We got off to a rather uneventful start. I have had Mickelson a number of times over the years and had Tiger in 2003 at the Open in Chicago at Olympia Fields. This was my first time to walk with Bubba. There is no mystery why these guys are the cream of the crop. Their skill set is simply that much better than their peers. I was astonished at the number of cameras/cameramen that were allowed inside the ropes. Ditto for security people and police personnel. I estimated there were more than 100 people inside the ropes for our round today. It is true that Bubba can manipulate the ball as well as anyone in the game. Olympic has a number of dogleg holes and Bubba was moving the ball right-to-left and left-to-right at will. Tiger was hitting his ‘stinger’ iron off the tee on a number of holes and Phil was keeping it in play with a combination of driver, 3-wood, and long iron tee shots. It was an easy day for me rules-wise. The only issue that came up was on #6. Phil had a putt from the very front of the green to a back left hole location. His first putt went by the hole and came to rest very close to the back edge of the green. As the other players were contemplating their putts, Bones Mackay, Phil’s caddy, came over and asked that I determine whether or not Phil’s ball was on the green. Because the fringe is so closely mown, it is sometimes difficult to tell if the ball is on or off the green. After I looked at Phil’s ball from a number of different angles it became apparent that his ball was resting on the fringe with none of it touching any part of the green. Consequently, he would not be able to mark and clean his ball before his next stroke. I told Phil of my determination and he accepted it without comment, taking two more strokes from the fringe for his bogey.
Mickelson and Watson were in danger of missing the cut after their respective 76 and 78 scores on Thursday. Tiger had shot 69 on Thursday and was in the hunt for the Championship lead. Based on the projections it appeared that +8 would be the cut line. Watson played his first 13 holes on Friday three-over par, then righted the ship to birdie #15 and #17 coming in and shoot 71. It wasn’t quite enough, however, as the cut did fall at +8. His 71, coupled with his 78 from round one left him on the outside looking in at +9. Mickelson birdied the last, hitting a sand wedge to just above the hole and draining the putt, also shooting 71 on Friday to just get in under the cut line with a 76/71-147. Other than consecutive bogeys on #5, #6, and #7, Woods played well, offsetting those bogeys with birdies on the par three 3rd, par four 10th, and par three 13th, to shoot even par 70 and hold a share of the lead with Jim Furyk and our own David Toms at one-under 139 through 36 holes.
Saturday, June 16, 2012 I’m with the second group of the day today, at 9:25 AM. Joe Ogilvie from Austin, Texas, and Patrick Cantlay from California. Ogilvie had a great collegiate career at Duke and is one of the more well-respected guys on Tour. Cantlay is an amateur, and plays collegiately at UCLA. He has had an outstanding amateur career, and is one of three amateurs to make the cut here this week.
We had a bit of action early on. Cantlay hit his tee shot to the right of the par-three third hole. After getting the ropes down and the gallery moved back, he called me over and asked if he could get relief from what he perceived to be ‘abnormal ground conditions.’ We’ve been instructed that only rovers can grant relief for abnormal ground conditions that aren’t marked as such. This area was not marked and didn’t appear to be any different than a million other lies in the rough at Olympic. I indicated that I did not think relief was warranted but would be glad to call in a rover for a second opinion if he desired. He indicated that he would, so I got on the radio to see if there was a front-side rover close by. We had a rover there within a minute or so and he quickly concurred with my ruling of no relief. Cantlay proceeded to hit a great shot, landing the ball in the only place that would allow the ball to stay on the green, then drained a 20 footer to save his par.
On the very next hole, the uphill par-four 4th, Cantlay’s stance was on a sprinkler head in the fringe. We found his nearest point of relief, he dropped his ball correctly, and we were again on our way.
That was it for rules issues on Saturday. The Olympic Club course is extremely hilly and my legs and feet were yelping at me when we finished. I took a quick shower and changed clothes, then headed to rules hospitality for some lunch. I did manage to get to the first tee to wish good luck to David Toms and John Peterson in the next to last pairing of the day. Toms was tied for the lead, with Peterson a couple of strokes back. While neither played as well as they would have liked, Peterson did create some excitement later on Saturday with a hole-in-one on the par three 13th hole.
I’m heading out tonight. We have more than enough rules officials for the weekend so I’m leaving out of San Francisco just after midnight. I’ll hang around and watch the rest of the day’s play on TV, then head to the airport to turn in my rental car. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some sleep on the flight home.
Sunday, 6/17/12 I arrived home Sunday morning around 9:30, went to church, then headed for the couch and what I hoped would be a leisurely afternoon in front of the TV watching the final round of the Open. In spite of my best efforts, I found myself dozing off more often than I’d like to admit. But I did get to see the leaders play the final few holes. Another great Open Championship on a great Open venue. Webb Simpson, as is so often the case at the US Open, survived the USGA’s examination better than anyone else, and was crowned a most deserving Champion. It was a great week…..I’m already looking forward to next year’s Championship at venerable Merion Golf Club, just outside Philadelphia.