Rory McIlroy Repeats Support For Bifurcation in Golf
The Distance Insights Update revealed this week by The R&A and USGA drew a wide range of responses; Bryson DeChambeau was "flattered" by the findings, while former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson believes the answer to golf's apparent distance problem is through tighter and harsher golf course architecture.
But it was Rory McIlroy whose passionate comments drew most attention.
Speaking ahead of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, the four-time major champion wasn't especially flattering towards the latest intervention from the governing bodies on the subject of golf equipment.
The Northern Irishman said: “I think the authorities, the R&A and USGA, are looking at the game through such a tiny little lens. What they’re trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1% of the golfing community: 99.9% of the people that play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use."
He continued: “We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers. Honestly, I think this distance insight report has been a huge waste of time and money, because that money that it’s cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game.
“I heard [USGA Executive Director] Mike Davis say something about trying to protect the game for the next hundred years. This isn’t how you do it. This is so small and inconsequential compared to the other things happening in the game. It’s the grassroots, it’s getting more people engaged in golf – that’s where they should be spending their money, not spending it on the distance insight report."
The custodians of the game would likely argue that they inject significant funds and interest into a variety of key areas, including those specified by McIlroy.
However, what was somewhat lost in the explosive noise was the 31-year-old's repeated support for so-called 'bifurcation' of equipment rules, meaning different regulations for professionals and everyday amateurs.
“I would be all for that,” he added. “If they want to try to make the game more difficult for us or try to incorporate more skill to the game, I would be all for that because I think it only benefits the better player, which I feel like I am.
“I think maybe they said that in terms of local rules and maybe some sort of bifurcation but we are such a tiny portion of golf. Golf is way bigger than the professional game. We’re such a tiny part of it. It’s the other stuff that really matters and that’s the stuff they need to concentrate on.”
This is a subject that he has addressed several times before.
Speaking at last year's Genesis Open, reacting to the initial release of the Distance Insights Report, McIlroy explained his view on setting different standards for the finest players in the game, ensuring the sustainability of our sport's classic layouts, which have increasingly become obsolete or compromised by technology.
"I think the biggest thing that came out of the report for me, a lot of the stuff about the ball going too far and technology, it really pertains to 0.1 percent of golfers out there. So look, if they want to try to contain what we do as touring professionals, I'm all for that. Selfishly, I think that that's only a good thing for the better players."
Responding to a Q&A with Eamon Lynch in GolfWeek last December, McIlroy shared that perspective again: "There is something beautiful in our game that everyone is governed by the same set of rules, but where technology has come to I like the idea of bifurcation, because the golf that I play and the golf you play — no offense — are completely different. You know what I mean? For 99% of golfers out there, golf courses aren’t too short. The ball doesn’t go too far for 99% of golfers. So I would be in favor of a set of parameters for the pros and another one for the amateurs."
Ultimately, McIlroy sees the benefit in establishing a distinction between the elite level of the sport and the mere mortals, ensuring the integrity of our major championship venues, while also retaining the game improvement support for average golfers, the lifeblood of the ancient game.
It's a subject - and a debate - that will continue for some time yet.
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