Rory McIlroy accuses golf’s rule-makers of ‘self-importance’ over driving distance proposals

Rory McIlroy has accused the R&A and USGA of “self-importance” over their proposals to restrict driving distance in the game.
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The game’s governing bodies are set to limit clubs to a maximum of 46 inches and are seeking feedback on the potential use of a local rule that would specify the use of equipment intended to result in shorter hitting distances.

The possible changes stem from the R&A and USGA’s Distance Insights Project (DIP) which McIlroy branded a “huge waste of time and money” in his press conference ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

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And in a subsequent interview with the Golf Channel, McIlroy added: “It certainly doesn’t need to happen.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

“Yes, of course, the ball goes a long way with top-level professionals and top-level amateurs and the guys who make their living playing this game. But 99 per cent of golfers don’t do that. They don’t want the ball to go shorter. They need help getting the ball in the air for it go further.

“Golf has had an unbelievable boom in 2020. I mean, this pandemic has been so good for golf and the fact is they are looking at the wrong thing. They spent millions of dollars doing this Distance Insights Report, which I think is not going to change the game at all.

“There might be new regulations on manufacturers but manufacturers are going to find a way round them, that’s how good they are,

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“So those millions of dollars spent on the Distance Insights Report should have been put back into the grassroots of the game because golf is experiencing a boom.

“So we need more younger people in the game. We need more minorities in the game. That’s how we keep the game going for the next 100 years, not by looking at the ball or the driving. And that’s my whole thing with it.

“I’m probably going to get in trouble saying this, but it reeks of self-importance.

“Yes, they are the gatekeepers of the game and their job is, yes, to make sure the game thrives in 100 years’ time and this is not the way to do it.

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“The way to do it is by getting more people into the game by making golf more approachable and if you are just piling rules on people all the time, that doesn’t make it appropriate.”

What McIlroy seems to have missed is that any changes to equipment rules will not be aimed at the recreational player he talks about.

In announcing a review to consider whether specifications should be adjusted or created to control distance increases, the R&A and USGA said the review “would not consider revising the overall specifications to produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the sport.”

McIlroy also reiterated that he would be in favour of professionals playing by different, local rules in any case, adding: “Yeah, I would be all for that.

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“If they want to try to make the game more difficult for us or try to incorporate more skill to the game, yeah, I would be all for that, because I think it only benefits the better player, which I feel like I am.”

In response to McIlroy’s comments, a spokesman for the R&A told the PA news agency: “We have said all along that we were going to conduct this process openly and invite feedback from serious voices throughout golf.

“So we welcome the contributions from players and others involved in the sport and will take them into consideration as we move forward on this important subject.”

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