March 31, 2023
Justin Thomas blasts USGA, R&A over new modified golf ball proposal

Justin Thomas blasts USGA, R&A over new modified golf ball proposal

A new proposal has drawn the ire of golfers on the PGA Tour.

This week, the United States Golf Association and the R&A unveiled a plan to reduce driving distance. The proposed model local rule will require elite golfers to use modified golf balls.

PGA golfer Justin Thomas opposes the potential rule change and expressed dismay at the Valspar Championship by calling the proposal bad for the game.

“So for two of the four biggest events of the year we’re going to have to use a different ball?” Thomas said via Golfweek. “Like, try to explain to me how that’s better for the game of golf. And they’re basing it on the top 1 percent of all golfers.”

“You know what I mean? I don’t know how many of you golf out here on a consistent basis, but I promise you, none of you have come off the golf course and said, ‘You know, I’m playing it so well.’ far and straight today that golf is no longer fun.’ Like, no, that’s not it, it’s just not reality.”

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Justin Thomas waves to the crowd after puttingt on the sixth green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club.

The new rule is expected to reduce the driving distance by between 14 and 15 yards. If adopted, the rule would take effect from January 2026 in their respective championships.

Thomas said the proposal is contrary to evolution. He mentioned how other sports, like basketball or track, don’t alter the rule book as players evolve. Instead, Thomas noted that those sports are tailored to their athletes.

“Like, no. It’s evolution,” Thomas said. “We’re athletes now. We’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, great for you. So yeah, as you can see, I’m clearly against it.”

The USGA and R&A stated that the new proposal would require golf balls not to exceed the general distance standard of 317 yards of combined carry and swing distance. Titleist, which sponsors Thomas and several other golfers, reported that nearly all golf balls sold today would fail in those conditions and be considered nonconforming.

In response to Titleist and other manufacturers, the USGA and the R&A proposed that the tests be conducted using robot swings at 127 mph and with a launch angle of 11 degrees. The hope is to generate 2,200 recoil rpm.

According to Golfweek, no player had an average driver clubhead speed of 127 mph. The driver’s average speed change is 115.1 mph this season.

Rory McIlroy leads the PGA Tour with an average driving distance of 326.6. He is joined by Brandon Matthews (320.4 average driving distance) as the only golfers to exceed the 317-yard limit.

As Thomas points out, the new rule would only apply to a small percentage of golfers on the PGA Tour today. He said it’s unique to use the same golf balls as any recreational player.

However, USGA CEO Mike Whan believes the proposal will better prepare the game for years to come.

“Shot distances at the elite level of the game have increased steadily over the past 20, 40 and 60 years. It’s been two decades since we last reviewed our testing standards for ball distances,” Whan said. “Continuous and predictable increases will become a major problem for the next generation if not addressed soon. The model local rule we are proposing is simple to implement, forward-thinking, and without any impact on recreational play.

“We are taking the next steps in this process, guided first and foremost by doing the right thing throughout the game.”

The proposal is expected to continue receiving feedback from interested parties and manufacturers through August. The rule would only affect elite level competitions. The USGA will not introduce modified balls at the recreational level for amateurs or elite players.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Thomas blasts USGA, R&A over new golf ball proposal

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