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!
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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.