Wednesday, March 02, 2011

USGA Gets It Right WIth Davis As New Boss

   In the same way Mike Davis has nailed the set-up of U.S. Open golf courses in recent years, the USGA got it right this week when it named Davis to replace David Fay as the organization's new executive director.

   Davis is the right man at the right time.

   He has the sensibilities necessary to navigate the various levels of politics, business and ego that run through golf at its highest levels while maintaining an appreciation and understanding of what the game is and should be at its grassroots level. He gets it.

   "Mike is the consummate golf person," USGA president Jim Hyler said on a conference call announcing Davis's promotion.

    Davis is a man who did what was once unthinkinable -- he softened the U.S. Open. Okay, maybe it's like dulling a razor blade but Davis realized that not every miss in an Open has to leave a scar. He introduced graduated rough. He offers a driveable par-4 where he can. He seeks fairness in a course set-up while still presenting a thorough examination of the best players' games.
   Davis was one of the people who endorsed the extensive restoration project at Pinehurst No. 2 and he loves talking about seeing both 2014 Opens played without rough. That's how different Davis sees things.

     And the players, a finicky bunch especially when greens are hard, fairways are rough and the pressure immense, have applauded Davis. That may be the ultimate endorsement.

   In succeeding Fay, Davis will take over an organization that deals with layers of issues from agronomic to equipment to television deals. He is the seventh executive director of the USGA and he has known the last five, working directly with some of them for extended periods.

    Fay had the good vision to take the U.S. Open to true public venues such as Bethpage and Torrey Pines. He softened some of the starch in the organization as has Hyler, whose guidance has greatly benefited the USGA.

   Davis will make his own mark and it's too soon to know exactly how he'll differ from Fay but he will. It's natural. The good news is the USGA decided to allow Davis to continue overseeing the set-up of U.S. Open courses. He'll surrender the duty for the Women's Open, the U.S. Amateur and the Walker Cup but not for the biggest event.

    It was a critical element in hiring Davis. He wanted it and the USGA was smart to let him continue doing it.

   "I have been public about this. I love the golf course set up part of what I've done," Davis said. "I almost mean it that I would pay the USGA money to allow me to do this. I love putting that puzzle together."

   At the same time, the USGA found the right piece for its puzzle.