Elkington showed up wearing metal spikes. While metal spikes are allowed on the PGA Tour and are allowed by the USGA in the U.S. Open, the USGA lets host sites set policy for qualifiers. And the policy at Lakeside is softspikes only.
When Elkington was told he couldn't play in metal spikes, he stormed out. The Houston Chronicle reports:
The plot at Lakeside began to thicken about 20 minutes before Elkington's scheduled 8:45 a.m. tee time. Jeff Kuhn, the USGA rules official in charge of the event, noticed Elkington was in breach of the course rule prohibiting long spikes. Kuhn, who has worked in 20 USGA national championship events, said Elkington could not play without changing shoes.
"I said, 'That's BS,' " Elkington said. "At Winged Foot, you're allowed to wear spikes. I said, 'Let me ask you this: You'll allow me to play at Winged Foot in spikes, and your rule doesn't apply here?' He said, 'That's what I'm saying.' "
Kuhn took up the matter with Mike Davis, the USGA senior director of rules and competitions. When Davis upheld Kuhn's decision, Elkington left the grounds. Two college players, Ryan Baca of Baylor and Ryan Posey of Oklahoma State, earned the two Open spots at Lakeside by shooting 6-under-par 136 for 36 holes.
"I hate to say it, but it's just one of those things where a rule is a rule," Davis said. "The worst thing you can do in the rules of golf is deviate from them. Can you imagine if one player out of 750 in these qualifiers were allowed to do that? We would get thrown under the bus — and deservedly so."
Elkington said it's horribly unfair because different qualifying sites might have different policies. But Davis also told the Chronicle that Elkington signed an application on which the local rule was acknowledged, and also that all players taking part at the Lakeside qualifier received a packet of information that included a reminder to abide by Lakeside's softspikes-only policy.
Elkington also said the fact that golfers playing at other qualifying sites where metal spikes were allowed thereby had an unfair advantage over the qualifiers at Lakeside. Our man Steve doesn't reason very well - the players at any other qualifying site were playing against each other, not against the golfers at Lakeside. Nobody at Lakeside was at a disadvantage to anybody else in the field ... except for the one who wasn't smart enough to follow the rules he'd been told about and showed up wearing metal spikes.
Elkington can boo-hoo-hoo all he wants - and he's boo-hoo-hooing a lot, even considering legal action, according to the Chronicle - but the fact is, all 31 other players at the qualifier managed to abide by the rules in place. And it was Elkington who made the choice not to participate - he could have simply changed shoes, after all.