'I think,' he said while standing next to a crowded putting green at Cog Hill No. 4, site of this week's 100th Western Open, 'that this is much ado about a very important situation.'
Smith, a long hitter and winner of the 2002 Buick Classic, said he has talked to Tiger Woods about the subject of what certain people call 'hot drivers.' And, he said, 'If it were up to me, I'd go back to persimmon. I'd go back 15 years where there was no spring effect whatsoever.'
If you were at Cog Hill Tuesday, you couldn't ignore the subject of advances in technology that are, in most cases, causing golf balls to go farther and farther. Longtime Chicago area amateur legend Joel Hirsch stood on the driving range and watched young Australian James McLean power balls over the barn at the far end of the landing area. Into the wind.
'That has to be a carry of 325 or 340 yards,' Hirsch said, shaking his head.
Hours earlier the PGA Tour had conducted a press conference in which it confirmed that the testing of driver faces will begin by next year. Commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour was seeking to 'damper down the rumor mill a little bit.' The testing has been devised to ensure that driver faces don't exceed the prescribed limit of .830 for coefficient of restitution.
Defending champion Jerry Kelly guaranteed 'there is not one single player that knowingly is using any equipment that is non-conforming.'
But both Smith and Ty Tryon, to name two, said there almost certainly were players on tour unknowingly using hot clubs. This is why the tour is finally stepping in.
At the moment, they have two problems:
First, there is the enforcement of the testing and the testing mechanism, AKA the 'pendulum tester.' The tour would prefer the testing to be voluntary. Smith and Woods, to name two, disagrees. 'I think you should test every single club before it's ever hit on the range,' Smith said. He even suggested that the tour hire three or four employees whose sole job is to test the clubs.
Don't hold your breath. Smith, a realist, isn't holding his. But, he said, 'if you're going to test, test.'
Second, at least one prominent equipment company isn't happy with the pendulum tester that the USGA has developed and the tour has endorsed (to the extent that it will be ready and efficacious by Jan. 1.) This company has communicated its reservations on the pendulum tester to the tour and the R&A and the USGA. The company's objections center around the need for what it calls a more definitive and repeatable method of testing. More specifically, the company says the accelerometer specified by the USGA and R&A is not yet reliable.
Let's review the bidding here:
But the important principals are miles apart on the testing mechanism and the manner and frequency in which the testing needs to take place. This is why the tour has given itself until Jan. 1. The hope is that all parties involved will be in agreement by then.
Said Finchem: 'We want to take the mystery out of it.' And he is precisely correct on this. The problem is it appears, at the moment, to be easier said than done.
Or as Smith put it: 'I don't think you can bring technology to a halt.'