USGA backtrack on claims Justin Thomas cancelled meetings on new rules
American golfer said he was hurt by allegations he had not engaged in process
Justin Thomas got involved in a social media spat over new golf rules with the USGA and PGA Tour. Photograph: Mario Guzman/EPA
The USGA have backtracked on its claim that former world number one Justin Thomas had cancelled meetings with the organisation to discuss golf’s new rules.
Thomas has been a vocal critic of the changes to the Rules of Golf which came into effect on January 1st, calling them “terrible” in his pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Honda Classic.
His mood was not improved when he bent the shaft of his nine iron after hitting a tree playing a recovery shot in the opening round at Palm Beach Gardens and was unable to replace the club mid-round, only to repair it.
“You can just add that one to the list of rules that don’t make any sense,” Thomas said afterwards.
On Saturday, after it was announced that Adam Schenk was retroactively assessed a two-shot penalty for a caddie-alignment violation on Friday, Thomas then took to social media to criticise the USGA, who surprisingly responded on Twitter.
The USGA’s PR account claimed Thomas had “cancelled every meeting we’ve planned with you” and pointed out that the PGA Tour had been involved with the planning of the changes for seven years.
However, on Monday the USGA wrote on Twitter: “After further and more direct conversations with @JustinThomas34, we realize he did not avoid a discussion with the USGA nor cancel any meetings.
“We value his and all players’ opinions and are committed to a productive dialogue as the golf world adjusts to the modernized rules.”
Thomas had said on Sunday he was “really hurt” by the USGA’s initial response and that “the information they put out there wasn’t accurate in terms of me cancelling meetings and that doesn’t make me look good.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has waded into the ongoing rift between players and the game’s governing bodies.
After another week of controversy at the Honda Classic, Monahan has written a memo to players on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and Champions Tour, reminding them that they had their chance to affect the rules during the consultation process.
Monahan also defends the Tour’s rules officials as “the best in the game”, but also encouraged players to “use your voice constructively during this process”.
Monahan wrote: “This is a collaborative process, one the PGA Tour has been part of from the beginning, along with all organisations in the world of golf.
“During this process, we put forward a lengthy list of recommendations to improve the rules in many ways, including the removal of numerous penalties, and virtually all our suggestions were incorporated.
“We also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules prior to implementation, which resulted in modifications for the final version. The R&A and the USGA are our industry partners and we have pledged to work together through the introduction of these changes and provide feedback every step of the way.
“We have already achieved positive outcomes this year – most notably the clarification of the caddie-alignment rule – while we continue to focus on the remaining issues that are causing debate and discussion. None of this is unexpected.
“Our rules officials are the best in the game and are also providing constant feedback to the R&A and USGA as they work through implementing these rules during competition.
“We are committed to playing under these rules as we analyse their effectiveness throughout the entire season and it’s important to acknowledge that we are not at the finish line yet.
“You will continue to have an avenue to voice your questions and concerns, either through our team, the player advisory council or directly to USGA representatives as they continue to be on-site during our events to gather feedback.”
USGA executive director Mike Davis claimed last month that “by and large” the rules have been “a huge success”, although R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers admitted “it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked”.