Justin Thomas – The Ball plan fights “a problem that does not exist”

ESPN News Services2 minute read

Proposed rule changes that would limit how far players can drive the ball in elite golf tournaments would be detrimental to the sport, two-time major winner Justin Thomas has said.

“You’re trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. To me, that’s so bad for golf,” Thomas told reporters Wednesday ahead of this week’s Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Average driving distances are around 300 yards on the PGA Tour, but many players hit well beyond that, which means some courses are at risk of becoming stale.

The Royal and Ancient and United States Golf Association’s proposal would give competition organizers the ability to require players to only use balls that meet maximum distance criteria. Under the proposal, which would be effective from 2026, balls should not exceed 320 yards with a clubhead speed of 127 mph.

“If you can swing 127 mph, the power is yours,” Thomas said. “People are running faster, so what, are they just going to make the length a mile longer so the fastest time doesn’t change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now? Like, no. That’s evolution.

Former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, one of the sport’s longest hitters, said it would be “the most excruciating thing you can do in golf”.

“It’s not about rolling golf balls. It’s about making golf courses harder,” DeChambeau said Tuesday before a LIV Golf event in Tucson, Arizona. “I think it’s the least imaginative, least inspiring, least interesting thing you can do. Everyone wants to see people hit further.”

The governing bodies are collecting feedback from manufacturers and others on the proposed changes until August 14.

“In the debates and arguments that will certainly ensue over the next few days and weeks that we will all be participating in, I think we will constantly find ourselves in this discussion about someone saying, ‘Why would you this today, the game is fine today,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan. “…It’s not really about today. It’s about understanding historical trends over the last 10, 20, 40 years and being able to be very predictive in terms of these trends over the next 20 or 40 years and wondering whether or not the game can sustain in 20 or 40 years the kind of increases that are so incredibly easy to predict.

“If we just don’t do anything, we pass that on to the next generation and every golf course around the world to just get it.”

Thomas said he was disappointed but not surprised by the proposal.

“I think the USGA over the years has – in my eyes, it’s tough – but made some pretty selfish decisions,” he said. “They have certainly, in my mind, done a lot of things that are not for the betterment of the game, although they claim to be.”

Information from Mark Schlabach of ESPN and Reuters contributed to this report.

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