Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Does the 'Prick Pairing' at the US Open Still Exist?

There's a legend about the U.S. Open pairings that says the USGA, each year, groups together three golfers who are known for being ... difficult. Prickly, you might say. Jerks, others might say. The infamous "prick pairing."

Well, it's not a legend, it's fact. At least it was the last time any USGA official was willing to go on the record to confirm its existence.

John Feinstein wrote about the U.S. Open Prick Pairing in his book The Majors: In Pursuit of Golf's Holy Grail, getting then-executive director of the USGA David Fay to fess up to its existence. The prick pairing was a USGA "tradition" started by Frank Hannigan.

From Feinstein:

"(Fay) had not, however, given up on one of Hannigan's more hallowed traditions: the prick pairing. Hannigan swears he did not give the pairing its name, but he admits that each year he would put three players together he didn't like or who were generally disliked in the golf world. Insiders loved guessing the prick pairing each year, although more often than not it wasn't that difficult."

But Fay retired at the end of the 2010 year. Does the USGA still do this? Fay's successors have certainly maintained the USGA's sense of humor in setting the first- and second-round groupings post-Fay. For example, in 2011 they grouped three guys with rhyming last names: Thomas Levet, Brian Gay and Gregory Havret (and perhaps that was a sly homage to David Fay).

But what about the prick pairing? Look at the 2011 pairings and see if you can spot it. I think I can. Now look at the 2012 pairings. Do you see it? I don't.

The 2012 groupings come out on Friday. Let us know if you think you spot a prick pairing.

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