Golf's governing bodies fooling nobody about distance

By Will GrayFebruary 15, 2017, 8:59 pm

The USGA and R&A released a joint study Wednesday, designed to dispel the notion that equipment-aided gains in distance have become an area of growing concern.

The 24-page findings featured plenty of snazzy charts and graphs, and it boasted a healthy sample size. It also raised a single question: who, exactly, are we trying to fool?

As any PR firm can attest, statistics are a versatile tool. Choose the right data points, frame the right time period, and you can quantify support for nearly any argument. Such is the case with this study, the second in as many years released by the game’s governing bodies and one that simply continues to miss the point.

Forget for a moment that the data range is cherry-picked to begin only after the distance onslaught that accompanied the death of the wound ball in the early 2000s. Simply take a look around the game and you’ll see that player prowess off the tee is growing at a significant – if not alarming – rate.

The study’s data focuses not on distance outliers, but instead on the large swath in the middle where, for the PGA Tour, the average drive reportedly lingers around 290 yards. But those top-end outliers have become increasingly noticeable in recent years as more and more marquee players launch towering drives.

A whopping 27 players cracked the 300-yard average last season on Tour, 15 more than the 2010 season and 18 more than in 2003. Individual drives over 300 yards, which made up just 26.56 percent of tee shots in 2003, accounted for 31.14 percent last season.



Then there’s Rory McIlroy tweeting out other-worldly Trackman data, Dustin Johnson bending Oakmont to his will and Henrik Stenson lifting the claret jug by relying not on his driver, but instead his trusty 3-wood.

And don’t forget about Ariya Jutanugarn, who powered her way to LPGA Player of the Year honors while barely touching her driver in 2016, mostly hitting 2-irons off the tee.

Those are data points that the study fails to address, although the findings insist that PGA Tour players hit driver on “measured” driving holes more than 95 percent of the time last year.

Of course, the technology issue remains a two-front war. For every distance-enhancing equipment revelation, the likes of which were touted just last month at the PGA Merchandise Show, there is an equal gain made with the golf ball. It adds up to a situation that grows more untenable by the year.

“Change the frigging golf ball,” Jack Nicklaus said at last year’s Masters. “The golf ball goes so far, Augusta National is about the only place, the only golf course in the world that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to make to keep up with the golf ball.”

The notion that Augusta National would even need to make further changes is one that will cause many a golf aficionado to bristle. But sure enough, last year the club reportedly looked into purchasing a parcel of adjacent land that could someday lead to the lengthening of the iconic, par-5 13th hole.

Even the Old Course at St. Andrews, home to the same R&A that essentially dismissed distance as a non-issue Wednesday, underwent renovations prior to the 2015 Open.

“The Championship Committee felt there was an opportunity to stiffen its defenses in some places to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals,” said former R&A chief Peter Dawson in 2012.

“Stiffen defenses” against what, exactly, if distance gains have been essentially stagnant for more than a decade as these findings purport?

Recent advances in technology should not be considered wholly negative: after all, the improvements afforded to mid-handicap amateurs are often welcomed with open arms. But their subsequent effects on the professional game, especially at the elite level, cannot be ignored.

The USGA and R&A can compile as many reports as they wish, but they grow increasingly tone-deaf when juxtaposed with weekly Tour telecasts that routinely feature drives in excess of 300 yards on revered courses whose architectural challenges have nearly been rendered obsolete.

Eventually, golf’s governing bodies will have to act to curb the growing distance phenomenon. While studies like this allow them to punt that decision for the time being, it only raises the stakes for the day – not too far in the future – when they will be compelled into action.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'


President at the Presidents Cup


Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump


Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73


Cart on the green


Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green


Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open


Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National


Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


Trump golf properties

Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses

Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up


Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.