Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez about the new Distance Insights Project Report that was published by the R&A and USGA last week:
”I believe Augusta National could start to play a big role in showing the way forward now that the R&A and USGA have finally agreed the modern-day golf ball travels too far.
With the game’s rule-makers talking about bringing in local regulations for certain venues and events, the Masters is the one tournament where the top players compete on the same course every year and therefore experimentation would be possible.
Look how much they have lengthened Augusta in recent years to accommodate the ball. It would be something they could do, come up with a ball that travels a limited distance for the Masters.
If the experiment works, then maybe it could be brought in at other elite tournaments and courses. Augusta have taken their role in world golf very seriously and I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of very level-headed members there who have managed to set a good example in the recent past.
Whether that’s with accommodating lady members at the club or holding women’s events there, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them now taking a lead in this most pressing of issues too.
If they say to the players they have to use a certain ball at the Masters, I wouldn’t think many of the elite guys would then decide to boycott the opening Major championship of the season. I’m sure most of the players would be okay with that sort of dictat.
I heard Phil Mickelson say the other day that the modern players are so much fitter now and that’s the main reason the ball travels so much further. But that theory simply doesn’t wash.
IWhen I was in my pomp, I used to drive the ball around 260 yards, which was about average back then. I was physically strong, I was a gymnast, I didn’t have any extra weight through my playing career, but nowadays the players are hitting a five-iron that far!
You can’t get away with saying it’s down to the fact they all go to the gym because, in short, they don’t. John Daly never spent any time in the gym and he belted the ball a country mile. And you see guys who are pencil slim now who propel the ball huge distances. It’s not about muscle, it’s all about the ball and the equipment..
I just hope we get the right decisions made now because it would then bring all those great courses back into the limelight that have been rendered irrelevant to the top professionals.
What is needed is for the ball to be brought back at least 30 yards but I have to admit I would be shocked to see the rule-makers do that. There simply aren’t enough people without bias to get that done, in my opinion.
It’s insane, really. The likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, myself and the late, great Arnold Palmer have been saying it for decades and finally the R&A and USGA have woken up to the fact that we must curb the long hitters.
But it’s taken them so long to start addressing the issue, it could take them another decade to bring in solutions to the problem. By that time the likes of Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson will be in their 40s and will have been overtaken by the next generation of elite performers.
I just hope sanity prevails sooner rather than later and that something positive is done to bring about the changes that will benefit the game in the long run.”