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Davis certainly brings the résumé, and no one doubts that he has the chops. As the senior director of Rules and Competitions since 2005, he has been in charge of course setup for the U.S. Open and other USGA events. It is a position, like that of prison warden, that wins you few friends, but Davis is almost revered for the fairness and sophistication of his setups. When he introduced graduated rough at Winged Foot in '06, a few pros squawked out of habit; the others recognized that a down-to-the-last-shot free-for-all was total validation for Davis and the USGA.
That's why, when Fay retired, Davis and the committee had to consider the possibility that promoting him would be tantamount to asking Vin Scully to give up his mike to become general manager of the Dodgers. "I tippy-toed into the idea of putting my name in the hat," Davis admits. "I'm passionate about my work on the Open. It would have been hard to give up." USGA vice president Thomas O'Toole Jr. agrees, saying, "I wasn't excited about Mike walking out of that role just yet."
No problem. The executive committee has given Davis the job with the understanding that he will continue to set up U.S. Open courses. "That will be Mike's challenge," says a former Golf House staffer, "to not lose the part of the job he really loves. Plus he's going to have to know when to push and when to lay back, because the power changes every two years."
There it is again, that little nudge to the ribs, that insinuation that Davis, as head of the USGA, will not wield the clout of PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka (answerable to a four-man board) or that of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem (answerable to posterity). To which Davis blithely replies, "It's not as troublesome as some would make it. I think we all understand our roles."
For what it's worth, O'Toole's phone rang last week upon the announcement of Davis's appointment. It was Donald Trump saying, "Tommy, you got it right."
Sometimes the company man is exactly what the company needs.
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