Escalation Not Conciliation Between USGA and Equipment Companies

By Adam BarrJanuary 4, 2002, 5:00 pm
It seemed at the end of last year that the U.S. Golf Association and equipment manufacturers might be willing to bridge the ideological gap between them. Any lingering personal animus between the USGA and the late Ely Callaway was gone, and new Callaway chief Ron Drapeau said in private conversations that he felt a more conciliatory mood coming.
But now, instead of checking the mail for invitations to a hatchet-burying party, golf industry insiders are wondering how recent developments will affect the future of the game.
The USGA announced on Dec. 19 its proposal to limit the size of clubheads to 385 cc, and to limit the length of clubs to 47 inches.
Its about distance off the tee, right? That was the natural assumption. But in an interview with me that aired Jan. 2, Dick Rugge, the USGAs senior technical director, said otherwise when asked whether the USGA had evidence that head size and length were elevating science over golfer ability.
Thats not at all what were claiming here, Rugge said. Were claiming that [some new, larger and longer clubs] are too different from the traditional and customary form and make.
The emphasized words are from the Rules of Golf, Appendix II(1)(a), which is designed to prevent clubs from becoming unrecognizable as golf implements. Rugge admits its a subjective standard, especially in light of the fact that so many unusual looking clubs have been approved over the years, including triangular, winged putters and shallow-face metalwoods.
Everybody has their opinions, Rugge said. The USGA has its opinions about these things as well, and also believes it has a responsibility to act on its opinion.
Its difficult with a subjective standard like this, but thats our responsibility and were not afraid to take it.
Not exactly fighting words, but not conciliatory, either.
Manufacturers will have until Feb. 19 to comment on the proposals. There is no guarantee the regulations will be adopted, no matter what the manufacturers say.
So far, nothing they have had to say has been favorable.
[The USGA has] presented no technical evidence that their limits are anything but arbitrary, Adams Golf CEO Barney Adams said in a statement. My education by the USGA in the Rules of Golf is that ball flight should be swing-affected and the player should not have a piece of equipment that produces results better than his swing. If this is just arbitrary then it stifles innovation, which is the heart and soul of the golf industry.
'The most surprising thing to us was the vivid juxtaposition of the two announcements ' said Wally Uihlein, president and CEO of Acushnet Co., the parent of Titleist & FootJoy Worldwide and Cobra Golf. (The USGA release also included the announcement that tests to develop a new Overall Distance Standard for golf balls would employ actual launch conditions instead of a more theoretical process called optimization, a result ball makers have been hoping for.)
'The golf ball announcement reflected the input and concerns of manufacturers, Uihlein said. Compare that to the heavy-handed announcement of the proposed club restrictions, which we think are indicative of the new administration and a new regulatory activism.'
The new administration comes in Feb. 2, when president-elect Reed Mackenzie will be sworn in at the USGAs annual meeting. Despite his reputation among some equipment executives as a hawk, Mackenzie says the Dec. 19 proposals were not his idea.
All I can tell you is that the impetus for that came from the Implements & Ball Committee, with no suggestion from me, Mackenzie said. But I did support the announcement when it came out.
I have no implement and ball agenda, Mackenzie said. I have a good chairman in place there, and I can rely on him. (I&B chairman Walter Driver did not return calls before deadline.)
Mackenzie also said that early comment from manufacturers may lead to a change in the language of the rules proposals. Rugge confirmed this, and said a possible extension of the comment period, while unlikely, is nonetheless on the table.
Meanwhile, Zevo Golf had intended to bring a 410 cc driver to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Jan. 24-27. And new club entry Nike has one ready at 400 cc, and has solicited consumer comment on its website about the regulatory situation.
Whether or not the proposed regulations make sense depends on ones comfort level of golf purism. But larger questions loom. Chief among these may be the long-term effect of regulation (no matter how well-intended) on the recreational game, where flat participation levels have become an increasingly uncomfortable fact of commercial life. And that begs the complementary question: Would unbridled innovation some day make the game unrecognizable?
And if there is to be a bridle ' what kind of bit would it have, and who should put it in?
Check out the USGA's press releases:
USGA Announces Intention To Limit Clubhead Size & Club Length

USGA To Update Golf Ball Conformance Test
Who do you think will be the USGA's size limitations?
Share your thoughts!
Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm