• Distance issue draws closer to a conclusion

    Dustin Johnson
    Johnson's new driver goes even further

    The R&A and USGA are set to publish a joint report regarding their concerns with the game’s current ball distance debate.

    R&A chief Martin Slumbers and USGA chief executive officer Mike Davis will outline their views on the data that suggests action must be taken to limit the ball at the highest level.

    ‘There has been significant move up across all tours,’ Slumbers said.

    ‘We’re also looking at the longest on-record average driving distance and both of those have caused us, as well as our colleagues at the USGA, serious concern.

    ‘We had talked for a number of years about slow creep, and this is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump. Our 2002 joint statement of principles put a line in the sand, or purported to put a line in the sand.

    ‘I think our view is, when you start to look at this data now, that we have probably crossed that line in the sand, and that a serious discussion is now needed on where we go.’

    Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have all been outspoken in the debate calling for a limitation while world No 1 Dustin Johnson, who almost aced the 433-yard par-four 12th at the Sentry TOC, has now joined the chorus.

    ‘I don’t mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,’ Johnson said. ‘In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys… I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that’s needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there’s going to be [better off], you’re going to have more of an advantage.’

    ‘We’ll be publishing the distance report within the next month and there is a statement in there from the USGA and the R&A on the data that’s contained within it,’ Slumbers added.

    ‘I think there are many, many options available. There’s a lot of work still to be done with a lot of people, and engaging with not just the game, but the equipment manufacturers and all sorts of things, but that work we now feel needs to be done.

    ‘I’m hoping that we have a constructive conversation with all stakeholders for the good of the game. What do we want to do? We want the game to expand. We want more people to play. We want to see it as a skillful game. I think we will all work and talk around this whole distance issue.’

    Johnson, however, sees no issue with whether or not the ball is limited.

    ‘If the ball is limited, then it is going to limit everyone,’ he said. ‘I’m still going to hit it that much further than, I guess, the average Tour player.’

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