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Permitting Distance Measuring Devices in Majors is Backwards Step

By: | Mon 15 Feb 2021 | Comments

Golfshake's Derek Clements shares his latest View From The Fairway, reflecting on the news that the PGA of America will permit the use of distance measuring devices in its majors, and comments on the imminent return of a legend.

Tyrrell Hatton pocketed $1.3m for winning the Abu Dhabi Championship. Sebastian Munoz finished 21st on the PGA Tour money list in 2020 and pocketed nearly $3m. Renato Paratore ended the year in 21st place in the Race to Dubai, earning around  €700,000. And Johanna Gustavsson, who finished 21st on the LET money list, earned  €50,000 for her efforts. Who says there isn’t a gender pay gap? And while the PGA and European Tours are in full swing, with substantial prize money on offer again, the LET has only just announced its full schedule for 2021. It is not the fault of the LET that tournaments due to be held in Australia, Kenya and South Africa were scrapped because of the pandemic but having finished their season in November they will not be returning to action until May.

And for golfers such as Gustavsson this has created a serious dilemma - how on earth do they continue to make a living? “Last summer was difficult,” she said. "I could spend so much time back in Sweden with my family but I had the thought of, ‘If we don’t get back playing, I’m going to have to get a job and do something else.’ We started playing, of course, but now I’m back here, which isn’t so nice because it’s not summer anymore. You can practice but you cannot hit shots into a net or putt on a mat all day, there is a limit. I started to look at doing something else but it’s hard to get a job or do something different only for a while. It’s tricky.” Now back home in snowbound Sweden, Gustavsson has not played a round of golf since Spain. “You just have to keep believing you are in a good place, that your swing is in a good place,” she explains. “You just keep working so that when you get the chance to play, you can make the most of it. But it’s such a long process.” Let us hope that nothing happens to stop Gustavsson and her fellow players from getting out there and being able to ply their trade again.

THE PGA of America has announced that it will allow distance-measuring devices during competition rounds at the PGA Championship, Women’s PGA Championship and Senior PGA Championship. Am I the only one who did a double-take? Is it not the case that tour professionals have caddies on their bag precisely to inform them how far they lie from the hole? Jim Richerson, president of the PGA of America, said: “We’re always interested in methods that may help to improve the flow of play during our championships.” Does he really believe that is going to happen? I certainly don’t. You can bet your bottom dollar that we will see players using their laser device and then consulting their bagmen. I believe this is a backward step. These are the finest golfers on the planet and surely part of the skill of the game is to manually work out distances. It is bad enough that they are given “greens books” - whatever happened to the art of reading a putting surface using your eyes? Don’t get me wrong - I am not against technological advances. But I do wonder about the worth of measuring devices in the club game when most golfers actually have no idea how far they hit the ball and never hit it the same distance twice anyway.

Tommy Fleetwood

FIVE golfers have been fined a total of £1,000 after being caught breaking lockdown rules in England. The group were spotted playing at Bowring Park Golf Course near Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, despite the track currently being closed. Golf courses in England have been shut since January 4 as part of tighter COVID-19 mitigation measures. Police issued each of the five men - all in their 20s and 30s - with £200 fixed penalty notices for breaching the regulations. Green fees at Bowring Park, reckoned to be the first municipal golf course in England, usually cost around £10. Councillor Shelley Powell, Knowsley’s cabinet member for communities and neighbourhoods, condemned the actions of the group. “The rules can’t be clearer," she said. "Stay at home unless it is for essential purposes such as to attend work or school. Bowring Park Golf course is closed in order to adhere to the current lockdown rules, so not only have the five golfers broken lockdown rules, they are also trespassing on the course. I’m astounded that at the current time, when our Covid rates remain high, people think they can break the rules and get away with it.” It seems barely believable that, even now, people continue to flout the rules.

THERE has been some good news. The Open Championship will go ahead at Royal St George’s in July, with or without spectators. R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has issued a statement reiterating that The Open will not be cancelled for the second year running. He remains hopeful that thousands of spectators will be permitted to attend the Championship as it returns to the Sandwich venue for the first time since Darren Clarke's memorable victory in 2011. But he also confirmed that "robust plans" were in place to stage The Open in front of a limited quota of fans, or with the tournament closed to spectators altogether. "We are focused on staging The 149th Open at Royal St George's from 11-18 July and on delivering a fantastic Championship for the country and the world of golf," Slumbers said. "I would like to assure you our fans as well as our players, officials, patrons, partners, contractors and suppliers that we will do all we can to make this summer's Championship a huge success. We are acutely aware that this remains a difficult time for so many people and the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is causing substantial disruption to all our lives but there is growing cause for optimism with the rapid roll-out of the vaccination programme.” We would, of course, all love to watch the champion bestriding the final fairway surrounded by thousands of cheering fans. It seems highly unlikely but any Open is surely better than no Open at all.

Annika Sorenstam will contest her first Tour event in 13 years at the LPGA Gainbridge Championship in Florida. Sweden's 10-time major winner, who won 72 LPGA events and 90 titles in all worldwide, retired in 2008 to start a family. "I've thought about it since I heard the event was coming to Lake Nona, where we have lived for years," said Sorenstam. "The members keep asking me to play and I figured, why not?” The Gainbridge LPGA takes place at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, Orlando, from February 25-28. Sorenstam, 50, added that she also intends to participate in the US Senior Women's Open in August. The Swede played her first Tour event in 1993 - and in 2003, she became the first woman to play in a men's PGA Tour event for 58 years. If anybody believes she is simply taking part to make up the numbers they could be in for a shock. Sorenstam is a consummate competitor and it would come as no surprise if she were to contend.

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