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USGA CEO Mike Whan to consider LIV Golf path to U.S. Open

USGA CEO Mike Whan to consider LIV Golf path to U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. — For an organization that has long labored against the perception that it’s led by austere, nerdish killjoys, the U.S. Golf Association must be comforted by the fact that, in these discordant times, it has a CEO who could talk a dog off a meat truck. Mike Whan is a highly polished presenter — a notch shy of slick, but trending that way — with more upbeat aphorisms at hand than a sales clerk in a Hallmark store. It’s a skill particularly well suited to our current moment.

That’s because, in part, there are things worth celebrating. Participation in golf has grown at the recreational level. So too has investment in sustainability, a rare oasis of social conscience in a sport seen as an arid desert of amoral accounting. And the 124th playing of the national Open is just hours away, and on one of the world’s finest courses. Whan is accustomed to selling such positivity and to receiving good notices in return, that being the norm for anyone who has served as commissioner of the LPGA Tour (Carolyn Bivens is the exception who proves the rule).

Leading a governing body, however, places Whan in an altogether different position: making decisions that are widely criticized and sometimes very unpopular, pushing back on unflattering narratives about his organization and its mission, and protecting his assets from being sideswiped in someone else’s wreck. He is proving quite adept at that too, as evidenced by two thinly-veiled warning shots he fired during the USGA’s annual press conference Wednesday at Pinehurst.

The topics were familiar — distance and LIV Golf — even if the intended recipients of his message went unmentioned.

The USGA and R&A introduced new conformance rules for golf balls that take effect in 2028 for elite competition and two years later for the rest of us. What they haven’t done is tackle drivers with highly forgiving faces, but one word from Whan today was enough to get the attention of club manufacturers from Fairhaven to Carlsbad: “Yet.”

Chief executive officer Mike Whan with the USGA , USGA president Fred Perpall and chief championships officer John Bodenhamer address the media during a press conference for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pinehurst No. 2. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

“We had and have real interest in figuring out a way to provide a difference as it relates to the driver as well,” he said, while admitting that any action previously contemplated was…


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