Justin Thomas AFP PHOTO
Miami: A move by the R&A and US Golf Association to change balls to limit driving distances was greeted with scorn Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) by players at the US PGA Valspar Championship.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas, who defends his PGA Championship title in May at Oak Hill, called it “so bad for the game” while fellow American Sam Burns dubbed it “silly.”
The golf sanctioning bodies aimed the change at elite players to trim driving distances by 14-15 yards, reducing concerns about technology boosting length and potentially rendering some courses.
The rule, if adopted, would begin in 2026.
“I’m clearly against it,” Thomas said.
To players who have seen the sport grow in a huge way over the past two decades, the move struck a sour note.
“My reaction was disappointed and also not surprised,” Thomas said. “I think the USGA over the years has — in my eyes, it’s harsh, but — made some pretty selfish decisions.
“They definitely, in my mind, have done a lot of things that aren’t for the betterment of the game, although they claim it.
“I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. For them to say in the same sentence that golf is in the best place it’s ever been, everything is great, but… And I’m like, ‘Well, there shouldn’t be a but. You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.'”
Thomas said that it will hurt that casual players will no longer be able to utilize the same equipment that the top players do in majors.
“To me, it’s just so bad for the game of golf,” Thomas said.
“You can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays or whatever.
“But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case… I don’t understand how that’s better for the game of golf. The amount of time, money that these manufacturers have spent trying to create the best product possible and now you’re going to tell them and us that we have to start over.”
Burns said reducing the length of huge drives will dim the entertainment for golf fans.
“Personally, I think it’s pretty silly,” Burns said. “We’re an entertainment sport and I don’t think people necessarily want to come out here and watch guys hit it shorter.
“They enjoy watching guys go out there and hit it 350 yards. I don’t see what the problem is with that. I think that’s a skill and I don’t really agree with trying to take that away.”
Thomas even threatened that elite golfers might create their own rules and snub the USGA and R&A over the matter.
“It’s like, you know what, then fine, if you want to change something based off of your data that we feel like is pretty biased and incorrect and self-centered to what you believe in, then maybe we’ll just create our own or we’ll do our own thing,” Thomas said.
Bryson hates the idea
LIV Golf’s Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion known for his long drives, ripped the changes to the Saudi-backed league’s website.
“If you could say I’m the complete opposite times 1,000, that’s what I would be,” DeChambeau said of the distance-limiting ball.
The American has worked on his body and swing to maximize clubhead speed and driving distance, blasting drives for length with less worry about placement.
“It’s a great handicap for us guys that have worked really hard to learn how to hit it farther,” he said. “If they do it in a way where it only affects the top end, I see the rationale. But I think it’s the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do to the game of golf.
“I think it’s the most unimaginative, uninspiring, game-cutting thing you could do. Everybody wants to see people hit it farther.”
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