Dustin Johnson is Wrong About Not Limiting Golf Ball
WHEN the world number one in any sports speaks, people tend to listen, but you have to question Dustin Johnson's view that there is no need to limit how far golf balls fly because, as he says, nobody "is making the game too easy".
If that is really the case, how come Justin Thomas and Adam Hadwin both shots 59s on the PGA Tour in 2017? How come Branden Grace was able to reduce the previously-fearsome Royal Birkdale to 62 blows during the 2017 Open and how come Tommy Fleetwood was able to play Carnoustie - one of the toughest golf courses on the planet - in 63 shots? And how come Thomas played Erin Hills in 63 during the US Open?
Let's be honest about this - Johnson is NOT one of the game's deep thinkers. Even he would admit that. Jack Nicklaus has been saying for years that something needs to be done to limit the distance the golf ball travels and even Tiger Woods has now joined the debate, saying that tournament golfers hit the ball "way too long".
Johnson, 33, almost had a hole in one at a par four measuring 433 yards during the Tournament of Champions, which he won. In 2017 he trailed only Rory McIlroy in the PGA Tour driving charts with an average of 315 yards.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson says. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole." I would refer the Dustinator to the scores outlined above.
With 43 players driving the ball an average distance of more than 300 yards last season on the PGA Tour alone, there have been some calls to alter the specification of balls to limit how far they fly.
Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association, recently said: "The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand. All it's doing is increasing the cost of the game. The impact it has had has been horrible."
Most club golfers would take issue with Davis over his claims. Modern clubs make it easier to hit the ball but there is little or no evidence to suggest that the club golfer hits the ball any further than he or she did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
It has been suggested that the Royal and Ancient and the USGA, who are responsible for the rules of the game, are considering changes, but Johnson is unconcerned.
"Whatever they decide to do it doesn't really matter," said Johnson. Referring to that 433-yard drive, which finished six inches from the hole, he said: "There was a lot of luck in that. There were a number of other factors involved, a 30 miles per hour wind behind me, downhill, firm fairway. I mean normally I can't hit that ball that far.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone. I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average tour player. But who knows? I don't know how they would do it or what they would do or how long it would take them to be able to do it. It's not really a debate for me."
Golf courses are being lengthened, rough is being grown and greens made ever faster, but still scores in the professional game continue to fall. We routinely see the likes of McIlroy and Johnson hitting par fives with a drive and a short iron, while the rest of us mere mortals still need a driver, a three wood and a short iron to get there.
It is not beyond the wit of man to produce two types of golf ball - one for the pros and one for the rest of us. Let's face it - the clubs Johnson and McIlroy use already bear no relation to the ones we play with. Most of us would struggle to get the into the air with the driver that McIlroy uses.
Of course, the biggest hitters will still have an advantage over their rivals even if the golf ball is changed, but that has always been the case. The key thing is that if they don't hit the ball such vast distances then the great golf courses such as Carnoustie will remain relevant.
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