USGA CEO Mike Whan was apparently listening to SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio on his way into the office Friday morning when a conversation piqued him.
The topic on “A New Breed of Golf,” a radio show hosted by former Golf Channel talent and Team Titleist instructor Michael Breed, was Rory McIlroy’s show-stopping drive Thursday at Austin Country Club, where McIlroy hit a 375-yard tee shot to inside of 5 feet at the par-4 finishing hole to win his match at the WGC-Dell Match Play. Naturally, the mammoth shot sparked a discussion on the USGA’s recent model local rule proposal, which aims to effectively roll the golf ball back for elite competitors.
And Whan, wanting to set the record straight, dialed in.
“I couldn't listen to that show any longer without calling you,” said Whan, according to No Laying Up, which caught the live show.
Breed later thanked Whan for coming on his show and having a “passionate conversation on the biggest topic in the game.”
Here’s some of what Whan said via a 2-minute clip posted to Twitter:
“Nobody loves a drivable par 4 more than us. We love the game right now. I watched that last night and loved every second of Rory doing that. So, let’s just do this for example: For example, if this were to go in place in 2026, and the PGA Tour still wants that to be a drivable par 4, they’re going to take the tee box and they’re going to move it up 15 yards, and Rory’s going to do the same thing that he did last night. Now, the difference is, Rory’s kids and his kid’s kids, if athleticism continues to grow, which we both know is true – I don’t want to hinder athleticism, I don’t want to hinder advancements, I want to watch people continue to grow, but I don’t want to watch a golf course have to go buy another 17 acres of land just for Rory’s kids’ kids.
“So, if we implemented this and the PGA Tour still wanted scoring to be as low or lower than ever; if college golf, Korn Ferry, anybody who implements this, they can pick up their tees and make this a complete non-issue as it relates to scoring, excitement, drivable par-4s, and the difference is, we’ve put something in place that Rory’s kids can accept and Rory’s kids’ kids can accept, as opposed to saying to 30,000 golf courses around the world, you know it and I know, but you better figure out an investment plan because it’s coming. If you want to keep up with the elite level of golf, you better find another 30 yards in the next 30 years, and if anybody argues with that, including you, Michael, you either don’t care about the history of what’s happened in distance or you’re arguing against yourself, which is athleticism, speed training, enhancements are all coming, and quite frankly they’re exciting in the game.
“Distance is worth pursuing. It’s an advantage that’s good in the game, and the game certainly creates that as an incentive. We don’t want kids or future players to not be pursuing it; we just want to make sure that that pursuit doesn’t require golf courses all around the world to have to continue to make changes, and we’ll never build a golf course next to a city again, where there’s all kinds of golf courses that are completely landlocked for all kinds of reasons. Yes, we’ve all got a few golf courses in our community where you go, that’s a great ol’ track, it’s a shame we can’t play anything big there, and that’s OK, I’m not saying the sky is falling, but that list is only going to get longer in the next 20, 40 and 60 years, and we just have to decide as an industry, do we just not care about that?
“I’ve never been about scoring, I’m not about trying to make the game more difficult, this is not some big coup because we don’t like how many under somebody is.”
So far, Whan has had at least one notable name respond to his comments on Breed’s show: instructor Hank Haney.
“Why does any golf [course] have to buy another 17 acres of land?” Haney wrote. “I just don’t get it. Go play a different course, there’s plenty of golf courses long enough to host tournaments for pro golfers.”