Justin Thomas has said proposals to introduce a distance-reducing ball is “selfish” as well as “biased, incorrect and self-centred,” and has questioned what benefit it will bring to the game.
The R&A and USGA are proposing a Model Local Rule (MLR) that gives organisers the option to require the use of balls which are tested under modified launch conditions. The MLR is intended for use only in elite competitions and will have no impact on recreational golf.
Advances in fitness and golf equipment technology have seen players hit the ball further than ever in recent years, leading to golf courses being lengthened in an effort to continue to test the world’s best.
The R&A and USGA said in February 2020 that they intended to “break the ever-increasing cycle of hitting distance” but admitted it could take years before solutions were found.
Thomas hit back when asked about the proposal on Wednesday.
“My reaction was disappointed and also not surprised, to be honest. I think the USGA over the years has, in my eyes – it’s harsh, but – made some pretty selfish decisions,” Thomas told media.
“They definitely have done a lot of things that aren’t for the betterment of the game, although they claim it. I had conversations with some USGA members and I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. For them to say in the same sentence that ‘golf is in the best place it’s ever been, everything is great, but’… And I’m like, well, there shouldn’t be a but.
“You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. To me, it’s just so bad for the game of golf, for an opportunity. I mean, some of the great things to me is the fact you can play the exact same golf ball that I play. I mean, that’s cool.
“For an every day amateur golfer, it’s very unique that we are able to play the exact same equipment. Yeah, I understand that I may have a different grind on a wedge, whatever you want to call it, but you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays or whatever.
“But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case. They want it to be: ‘Well the pros play this way and the amateurs play this way,’ and I don’t understand how that’s better for the game of golf.
“The amount of time, money that these manufacturers have spent trying to create the best product possible and now you’re going to tell them and us that we have to start over if the PGA Tour, PGA of America, don’t adopt this local rule?
“So for two of the four biggest events of the year we’re going to have to use a different ball? Like, try to explain to me how that’s better for the game of golf.
“And they’re basing it off the top one per cent of all golfers. You know what I mean? I don’t know how many of y’all consistently play golf in here, but I promise none of you have come in from the golf course and said, you know, I’m hitting it so far and straight today that golf’s just not even fun anymore. Like, no, that’s just not reality.
“So I know I went on a rant a little bit, but it irritates me because it’s consistent with – I feel like – decisions and things that the USGA has done in the past when it comes to rules or whatnot and data.
“I mean, what is it, using 127-mile-an-hour clubhead speed? Like, if you can swing 127 miles an hour, power to you. I mean, people are running faster, so what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer so that the fastest mile time doesn’t change? Or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?
“Like, no. It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. We’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, good for you. So yeah, as you can tell, I’m clearly against it.”
In addition to his clear annoyance at the proposal, Thomas suggested the game may reach a point where the players choose to do their own thing, regardless of USGA proposals.
“I just think if it’s going to come to this point, why are this group of call it five to 15-handicapped amateurs determining the rules of golf for professional golfers? Or why are they saying that we have to do something?
“So is it something where down the road, if you want to change something based off of your data that we feel like is pretty biased and incorrect and self-centred to what you believe in, then maybe we’ll just create our own or we’ll do our own thing.
“So I don’t know where the Tour stands on that. I can’t speak on behalf of what they’re planning on doing. But to my knowledge, they haven’t necessarily been on board with it or wanting to pursue the rolling the ball back. I mean, I’m all for not letting it go any further.
“And I think this is another important thing. This would help me. Rolling the ball back is only going to help somebody who hits it far and is a good ball-striker. It’s just an advantage for me even more so, I feel like, than I have and I’m still not for it.
“It’s a bigger picture. It’s about the game of golf. If I can hear some reasons that claim it’s better for the game of golf, then so be it, but I’ve yet to hear any.”
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