Woods and McIlroy have their say on golf’s distance debate

Bernie McGuire

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods says it will be just 1% whereas new World No. 1 Rory McIlroy reckons it will be only 0.1% if you were to estimate the number of players who could be affected by a fundamental rule change to fight technological advancements in golf.

McIlroy found himself quizzed ahead of this week’s Genesis Invitational about his thoughts on the release last week of a joint USGA/R&A statement expressing concern that advances in player fitness and the advance of golf equipment technology is ruining the ancient club-and-ball game.

Golf’s joint ruling bodies expressed concern that golf has reached a crossroads because recent gains have compromised the strategic challenge of many courses and created adverse consequences that affect golfers at every level, and the game as a whole.


The USGA and R&A discussed the potential of a “local rule” which would allow tournament committees to “specify use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances”.

The USGA and R&A said their equipment standards’ teams will now conduct a broad review to assess the wide range of options related to distance and the governing bodies will publish a set of specific research topics and then gather information from stakeholders and manufacturers, a process that is expected to take up to a year. At that time, if necessary, the governing bodies could propose a rule change.

The upcoming review is expected to include the potential of a local rule that would specify the use of equipment that would decrease distance. Though the term “bifurcation” does not appear in the 15-page conclusions document, both the R&A and USGA cited during a Monday news conference a desire for a single set of rules. The governing bodies left open the possibility of having two sets of rules by stating the review is “not currently intended to consider revising the overall specifications in a way that would produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the game”.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods believes golf course designers were “running out of property” in trying to cope with the increased hitting distances and that if professionals were required to use different equipment from recreational players, it would affect “only one per cent of the guys or women”.

McIlroy was asked his view but the four-time Major champion went even lower than Woods as to the number of golfers any new rule would affect.

“A lot of the stuff about the ball going too far and technology, it really pertains to 0.1 percent of golfers out there,” McIlroy said.

“So if they want to try to contain what we do, as touring professionals, I’m all for that. Selfishly I think that’s only a good thing for the better players.”

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