Old Tom Morris wouldn’t know what you’re talking about while the likes of Peter Thomson and Arnold Palmer would be turning in their graves. Allowing players and caddies to use rangefinders in this week’s 103rd PGA Championship is probably the most controversial decision ever made in the 169-year history of the majors.
The PGA of America made the decision earlier this year announcing that it would allow the devices in its three major championships: the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA and the KitchenAid Senior PGA, in a move, they say, that would “improve the flow of play” by allowing players easy access to yardages obtained by aiming the device at a flagstick and quickly getting the right ‘number’.
Regardless, the move has been slammed by many including some of the world’s leading caddies. Mark Fulcher, the former long-time caddy to Justin Rose and now ‘bagging’ for Francesco Molinari, described the decision as ‘a little pointless’, while Paul Tesori, the caddy to Webb Simpson, remarked: “There have been rumours for years rangefinders would become legal on tour. I’m for them in events where having a caddie isn’t a requirement—the U.S. Amateur, NCAAs, Monday qualifying—but for a professional event I’m very against it.”
And Matt Kelly, caddie for Aussie Marc Leishman, feels similarly and said he likely won’t use a rangefinder often and would likely only do so if his player is well off the fairway: “I’m not a big fan of the decision,” he said. “It slows things down, if anything. I also don’t see the tour adopting them because it looks unprofessional on television and I don’t think the tour wants that.”
What is bizarre is that no-one was clamouring for the decision while the PGA Tour had tested their use in 2017 in secondary Korn Ferry Tour events and duly banned them while don’t expect Augusta National, the USGA or the R&A to approve their use in the other three men’s majors. Shane Lowry also admits the news surprised him.
“My first reaction on hearing the news that they would be allowing range finders for the PGA Championship was ‘that’s a weird decision’,” said Lowry.
And while admitting to being a ‘traditionalist’, Lowry hinted he’ll have his caddy ‘Bo’ Martin pack a rangefinder in the bag just in case.
“I’m pretty sure – I don’t like the idea of using a range-finder this week – but in saying that, I will probably use it, but probably not all week”, he said.
“The thing is also we haven’t talked about using a rangefinder but then as a pro golfer you have this in-round routine you are used to where Bo (Martin-caddy) walks of the distance as to how far it is to the front of the green and then the distance to the pin, and as you are doing this you are also looking at your yardage book.
“The thing is, if I am out on my own playing I would use a rangefinder to get a distance to the flag and you will try and hit a ball that far but in saying that, there is a lot more to it than just getting the distance. When it comes to golf, I am actually quite a traditionalist. I just like golf the way it is. I don’t like seeing many changes.”
SHANE LOWRY – PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FACT FILE
- Age – 34
- Competing in his 10th PGA Championship – First in 2010 at Whistling Straits
- Best finish – T8th 2019 (Bethpage Park)
- Lowest score – 64 first round, 2018 (Bellerive GC)
- Highest round – 79 second round (Whistling Straits)
- Rounds in the 60s – 11
- Rounds in the 70s – 19It’s not lost on Shane Lowry in heading into this week’s 103rdPGA Championship his best two finishes this year have been on Pete Dye designed courses.