USGA backtracks over claims Justin Thomas ducked out of rules meetings

The USGA has backtracked on its claim that former world number one Justin Thomas had cancelled meetings with the organisation to discuss golf’s new rules.

Justin Thomas has been a fierce critic of rule changes. Picture: Wilfredo Lee/AP
Justin Thomas has been a fierce critic of rule changes. Picture: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Thomas has been a vocal critic of the changes to the Rules of Golf which came into effect on January 1, 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 when he hit 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 try to repair it.

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“You can just add that one to the list of rules that don’t make any sense,” Thomas, pictured, said afterwards.

On Saturday, after it was announced that Adam Schenk had been 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.”

The backtrack came after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan waded into the ongoing rift between players and the game’s governing bodies over the new rules.

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”.

l Craig Ross maintained his good run of form on the MENA Tour by signing for six birdies in a 67 but was overshadowed by a stunning 10-under-par effort from Antoine Schwartz in the opening round of the Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines at Dubai Hills Golf Club.