A Regulatory Miracle -- and For Now Six Extra Yards
So it was no surprise Thursday morning when I spoke with David Fay, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, and he said this:
I feel as if I should be opening a bottle of Veuve-Cliquot.
I mention this not to showcase Fays excellent taste in Champagne, but to note the departure from his usual demeanor. While never stiff, the 24-year USGA veteran is usually a bow-tied bastion of patience and reserve. Champagne in the morning? This must have been a huge deal.
It was. For 18 months, Fay fought the good fight against reporters, detractors, impatient golfers and discussion-board soapboxers whose craws were full of consternation over discrepancies in equipment rules. As the permanent chief of an organization whose volunteer presidency turns over every four years, he had to endure the embarrassment of making a regulation on equipment ' and then having the only other ruling body in the sport essentially shrug and say, Whats the harm?
Now that same organization ' the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ' has agreed to work with the USGA to ease the world of golf into the exact restriction the USGA wants. No wonder Fay wants to bring out the bubbly.
See the full story: USGA and R&A Reach Agreement
The history is all too recent. In 1998, the USGA, concerned about spring-like effect off the thinner faces of modern drivers, announced at the U.S. Open at Olympic that it would be looking into the matter. That fall, the USGA instituted a limitation on just how springy those faces could be. The now-famous number, .83 (.822 plus a test tolerance), represents that coefficient of restitution ' the percentage of velocity an object will retain when it rebounds from being fired into a surface.
Technicalities aside, what this meant was that in the United States and Mexico, to which the USGAs jurisdiction extends, there was a ceiling. Manufacturers howled at the possibility that their innovation could be stifled.
One would think that two rulemaking bodies that cover the entire world would see eye to eye on things. But to everyones surprise, the R&A said it never perceived the spring-like threat the USGA did. North America (minus Canada) became a continent where so-called hot drivers would not be used in tournament play and could not be used to make scores for handicap purposes ' a situation perceived as a stigma by the makers of the drivers.
The solution proposed by the USGA and the R&A Thursday ' five years of hotter drivers (a maximum COR of .86, which amounts to about six yards on dead-center hits) starting next New Years Day, and pros holding where they are now ' is a near-miraculous gift for the USGA, a truly face-saving result. Before Thursday, the R&As stolid indifference to the spring-like issue made it seem as if the only way out would be for the USGA to relent and lift its restriction entirely.
(Indeed, a number of critics said the USGA should do that anyway. Let the laws of physics limit driver performance, they said, because there were only a few more yards left anyway. But the abandonment strategy wouldnt have done much for the USGAs credibility, which has for years been called into question amid accusations of bull-in-a-china-shop regulation practices.)
So what gave? Why did the R&A go from shoulder-shrugging to willingness to regulate?
Its simple: In a small world, uniformity is worth it. It may have seemed quaint, all those decades ago, when the U.K. ball was smaller than the U.S ball, and steel was O.K. over here but hickory ruled over there. But golf is now an international game, and the games best players devour distance weekly in the search for riches and glory. There must be one game, not many, is the thinking now, even if to achieve this requires the temporary irony of two sets of rules.
R&A secretary Peter Dawson confirmed this from Scotland Friday.
The issue [of spring-like effect] got so hyped up that in a sense, uniformity did become more important than regulation, Dawson said. Also, if theres no threat from spring-like effect, there is no threat from regulation on it.
Aha. Indifference is a two-edged sword, evidently. But Dawsons observation did nothing to denigrate the USGAs concerns; the R&As action should not be seen as mollification of a wailing child. The negotiations toward this settlement were long, and at times it seemed from the progress reports as if there was no progress to report. Based on the personalities of the people involved, it is reasonable to conclude that negotiation worked the way it is supposed to ' everyone gave something, and everyone came away seeing something of the others points of view.
Now that this chapter is about to close, everyone seems to be happy. But the horizon is not cloudless. The PGA Tour circulated a five-paragraph statement applauding the spring-like agreement, but used the occasion to state twice on that one page that golf balls should stop where they are. The ruling bodies can now turn their attention to that issue, and they are certain to encounter resistance from a golf ball industry that has no plans for curbing innovation.
And as for the spring-like rollback to .83 on New Years Day, 2008: Although many high-profile club companies have agreed to toe that line, there is already some private muttering among manufacturers that they may use the five-year grace period to make sure the .86 standard stays where it is.
As usual, dont touch that dial.
The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't
The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.
All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.
By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.
Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.
As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:
This is unreal,hiding in kitchen beachside missile attack from North Korea. Alarm went out all over Hawaii, and it’s no test...— Jesper Parnevik (@JesperParnevik) January 13, 2018
In a basement under hotel. Barely any service. Can you send confirmed message over radio or tv https://t.co/qHLeQSecnd— JJ Spaun (@JJSpaun) January 13, 2018
Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws. Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 13, 2018
While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:
Yeah, you heard that right.
“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”
Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.
Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.
Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.
As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.
Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.
Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.
With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.
First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.
“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”
Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.
We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.
These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.
Here's two more just for good measure.
Focus on a different face every time and this 15 second clip turns into 10 minutes of pure entertainment pic.twitter.com/JJeVV5eaVh— Laces Out (@LacesOutShow) January 15, 2018
Farts ... will they ever not be funny?
Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.
Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.
Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"
Yeah Tommy, we all got that.
Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.
But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.
We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.
Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.
PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.
Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.
Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman
Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.
Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.
Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).
The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."
In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.
Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator
Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)
But here's one that deserves distinction.
Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.