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How much longer will the PGA Tour allow the amateurs to decide golf's rules?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Watching the opening two tournaments of the year in Hawaii last week, I suddenly began to wonder, how much longer will the PGA Tour allow the amateurs to decide golf's rules?

There is bound to come a time when they will want to be in charge of their own destiny. I really don't think the R&A and the USGA have done too good a job on the rules in recent times. There have been so many diabolical things going on in terms of US Open pin placements and other screw-ups.

I'm not coming at this as a gnarled old pro dreaming of days of yore, none of this is sour grapes or anything like that. I've just got the best interests of the game at heart and I'm concerned about the direction golf has been taking for the last 40 years or so.

The PGA Tour is such a powerful entity, and the players now are playing for so many millions of dollars every week, that it seems to me the time is right for them to take the bull by the horns.

You never see many screw-ups in regular PGA Tour events. Just look at this new rule about dropping the ball from knee height, rather than shoulder height. What on earth brought that change on? What was wrong with the old rule? And players can now wade into areas  where a ball is often lost or unable to be played, hazards to you and I although they are not called hazards any more, they are called penalty areas, and they can take practice swings, they can ground their club, anything goes. Players can also now putt with the flagstick in the hole. We've played for decades under different rules and, to me, they are now beginning to mess with history.

I don't think the rules they've changed this year needed changing. In the meantime, though, the real issues the game has faced for a while continue to be ignored.

The distance the ball travels needs to be reduced, the anchoring of the putter, which the rule-makers tried to address a few years ago but got wrong, also needs urgent attention.

People keep telling me bifurcation is an issue but I don't see why. There is a massive chasm between the game the amateurs play now compared to the professionals. I'd allow the amateurs to play with any new-fangled device they want if it makes the game easier for them, but for the pros I'd rein back the ball to make sure the game was less predictable.

The game is so easy these days. The players hit wedges and nine-irons into the green eight to 11 times a round and you've got guys like Phil Mickelson coming back from the Ryder Cup saying, 'I can't play courses like Le Golf National any more'. To me, that is a great layout that rightly puts a premium on accuracy off the tee.

The modern game is all about 'gripping it and ripping it', and it's making golf too one dimensional.

There are no real par-fives any more, apart from when the wind is against and they play those holes that are 650 yards long. It would be good to see the players hitting four and five-irons into greens again, instead of endlessly smashing it miles on to wide-open fairways to leave pitching-wedge approaches.

If you go into the longer holes with longer irons you're going to miss greens and there will be more of a premium on your touch around the putting surfaces. The outcome these days is too predictable and we don't have the diverse group of winners we did before.

The longer it goes on like this, the further away we are getting from the way it was, and the way it needs to be again.

Golf has been severely compromised. Let's go back to the days of proper shot-making skills, players bending and shaping three and four-irons into greens again.

I think that if the professionals, i.e., the PGA Tour, made the rules, it would be a different game.