Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to discuss the outspoken comments made about modern-day golf by Rory McIlroy on Sunday:
‘Strategy, course management and shot-making are important aspects of tournament golf that are being slowly taken out of the game at the top level, not just in Europe, but worldwide.’
“Those were the words uttered by Rory at the end of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, the home of golf, and I couldn’t agree with him more.
It seems to me that Rory is essentially making his views known on the subject that so many of us have been wrestling with for the last 20 or 30 years — the distance the golf ball travels.
When players are hitting 340-yard drives it’s very difficult to set courses up to be a challenge. I understand totally what Rory is saying. Regular scores of 62 and 63, totals of 20-plus under-par winning tournaments every week. These are issues that need addressing by the rule-makers but the R&A and the USGA don’t appear to want to know.
Personally, I’d like to see an annual brainstorming meeting set up involving all the game’s stakeholders. Let’s get the R&A, the USGA, the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, the equipment manufacturers and representation from players past and present together round a table to thrash out what’s good for golf going forward.
This is an industry that is now worth billions of dollars and it’s crucial that we are seen to be doing what is needed to protect the integrity of the game and to make sure it can continue to flourish in the future.
I watched the players in action at the Dunhill on Sunday. It wasn’t an easy day for golf. It was cold and there was a breeze blowing at St Andrews but if the course was being played in the height of the summer, a 59 would have been on the cards for some of these guys.
Put simply, the ball is going way too far. It is so good aero-dynamically while the players have got all these sophisticated club shafts. But the players need to be challenged. Tournaments these days are turning into putting competitions. They don’t need 14 clubs in the bag. They could easily get by with half that amount.
Rory is a very shrewd guy. He’s always been open and honest with his views without being pushy. I don’t think he’s alone with his opinions either. We’ve had influential players making comments about the ball for 20, 30 years now but nothing ever gets done.
Jack Nicklaus, for instance, has resigned himself to the status quo being maintained. He doesn’t want to be seen screaming and shouting about the ball all the time if the powers-that-be are happy to keep things the same.
Jack joked to me a couple of years ago that Wally Uihlein of Titleist runs golf these days. But that’s not a long way from the truth. The way the ball goes off the tee with these modern drivers is making a nonsense of the game.
But what Rory says is more important than what Jack or I say. He’s a huge draw in the game now. He’s out there every week. He sees first hand what’s going on. He’s got his finger on the pulse and when he talks, the rest of us have got to listen.
It’s a bit like running a country. You need a government to organise a nation’s future and I think we have to think that way for golf too. The game deserves that.
Get everyone round a table to hammer this issue out at a two-day convention if necessary to make plans and reach decisions that will be for the betterment of the game in the future.
I keep hearing the R&A and USGA are monitoring developments with the ball. I hear that all the time. They have the absolute power to do what they want rule-wise but we’ve never had a straight answer from them as to why they don’t address the issue.
There are thousands of courses around the world that aren’t competitive any more for the modern players, they’ve effectively been made redundant.
The opinions of people like Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are so important. We cannot keep drawing a veil over these things. We need to think about growing the game and everyone needs to start being transparent.”