USGA Officer Says US Open Course Will Be 'A Little Spicier' After Low Scoring

The USGA's Chief Championships Officer, John Bodenhamer, offers his thoughts and plans for the rest of US Open week

Bodenhamer USGA US Open 2023
John Bodenhamer speaks to the media prior to the 2023 US Open at The Los Angeles Country Club
(Image credit: Getty Images)

USGA's Chief Championships Officer, John Bodenhamer, is hopeful that Los Angeles Country Club will be “spicier” over the next few days after he came in for criticism following the record low scoring in the opening round of the 123rd US Open .

The US Open is renowned for playing fast and firm, and challenging the very best players in the game with a very tough examination. However, Thursday’s scoring average of 71.38 was the lowest in the tournament's history, which led many to question whether the course was simply too easy.

Bodenhamer was grilled by the Golf Channel’s Paul McGinley and Brandel Chamblee after round one – which saw Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele both post 62s – came to a close. “When the best players in the world have optimal scoring conditions like we had this morning…we knew scores were going to be good, we didn’t know how good,” Bodenhamer admitted, adding that “I tip my cap to Rickie and Xander.”

In planning for a typically tough US Open test, Bodenhamer and his USGA team have not been helped by Mother Nature, specifically a 'marine layer' than has largely prevented the sun from breaking through to dry the course out.

“We came in with a plan, we need some help from Mother Nature tomorrow [Friday], he said. “We could show up tomorrow and we don’t get that misty conditions, and hopefully it’ll burn off a little bit sooner than it did.”

With the US Open weather forecast currently looking like it won’t change a great deal, Bodenhamer won’t be able to rely solely on what happens with the clouds and the sun to make conditions more difficult. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a repeat of Thursday’s low scoring, although there are no intentions for the USGA to make the North Course “stupid hard.”

“I’ll tell you what we won’t do, and I feel very strongly about this – we’re not going to force anything,” he added. “We could do things that would make it stupid hard. We’re going to go longer tomorrow. That was by design, and we’ll see what happens.

“We do know from our Walker Cup experience that Los Angeles Country Club dries down quickly. Tomorrow, as planned, we will play the golf course longer. You saw a few tees up today. That was by plan.

“Tomorrow you’ll see some things we had planned for Friday anyway and if we get the conditions we’re hoping for, I think you’ll see a little a little different, a little spicier golf course.”

When asked by McGinely whether he would be troubled by someone posting a winning total of 20-under, Bodenhamer admitted that it wouldn’t be “ideal.”

“I don’t know that it would upset me, but it would be something that I would think a lot about,” he said. “It wouldn’t be ideal for me, but I don’t really have a score in mind. I don’t think that would be the ideal one, because I don’t think we would have done our job in presenting the golf course as we would have preferred to do so.”

Shinnecock Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka wins the US Open at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 with a score of one-over

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Given the backlash the USGA received from the players following the brutal scenes at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, it’s perhaps understandable that the USGA has seemingly erred on the side of caution. This is also the first time that the US Open has visited The Los Angeles Country Club.

Bodenhamer acknowledges that such scenarios do come to mind, and that the USGA is always looking to listen and learn. “Yes, there was,” he said, when asked whether there was a change of philosophy after Shinnecock, when the USGA were accused of losing control of the course. “We took a deep dive into that and I think our priorities, we re-examined them, reviewed them.

“That was an unfortunate confluence of things. Shinnecock is just hard when the wind blows. Like every US Open, like every Championship we conduct, we do a debrief, we look back, we try to learn from it. We believe in continuous improvement and we’ll do that with this.”

Bodenhamer added “that’s our DNA” when it was put to him that the US Open has always had the tag of like “climbing Mount Everest.” On that basis, you wouldn’t expected any player to get to 20-under, whether the sun stays behind the clouds or not.

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.