PGA TOUR star Justin Thomas has sounded off on the latest debate to creep into the golfing sphere after the governing bodies announced significant changes on Tuesday about rolling the ball back and it’s safe to say he is far from a fan of the idea.
What the United States Golfing Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient (R&A) have proposed is a new golf ball testing standard for elite competition that would limit performance by 20 yards or more in a move hoped to curb the distance a ball could fly. Their new ‘Model Local Rule’ (MLR), as they’ve called it, could come into play as early as January 2026 should it get through its review period.
Speaking ahead of the Valspar Championship, which tees off on Thursday at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, 29-year-old Thomas, fields the question about the proposal and went on an all-time rant.
“My reaction [to the proposal] was disappointed and also not surprised, to be honest. I think the USGA over the years has — in my eyes, it’s harsh, but made some pretty selfish decisions. They definitely, in my mind, have done a lot of things that aren’t for the betterment of the game, although they claim it. I had conversations with some USGA members and it just — to me, I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. For them to say in the same sentence that ‘golf is in the best place it’s ever been, everything is great, but…’, I’m like, well, there shouldn’t be a but.”
The MLR could set a course for bifurcation, which would draw a definitive line in the sand between professional players like Thomas, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and every day golfers. This unique aspect of every golfer, no matter what level, using the same equipment is something that Thomas values and doesn’t want changed any time soon.
“You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. To me, it’s just — it’s so bad for the game of golf, for an opportunity — I mean, some of the great things to me is the fact that you can play the exact same golf ball that I play. I mean, that’s cool. For an every day amateur golfer, it’s very unique that we are able to play the exact same equipment. Yeah, I understand that I may have a different grind on a wedge, whatever you want to call it, but you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays or whatever.
“But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case. They want it to be, okay, well, the pros play this way and the amateurs play this way, and that just doesn’t — I don’t understand how that’s better for the game of golf.”
Under the proposed new testing protocols that the USGA and R&A have laid out, the governing bodies would test balls in the different conditions, including measuring at 127 mph clubhead speed, which is significantly up on the 114.72 mph average on Tour. The proposal would mean that the ball must not travel more than 320 yards. With the Tour driving average currently at 297.2 yards it may not affect everyone but with Rory McIlroy’s number up at 326.6, this would definitely prove troublesome.
Two-time major winner Thomas went on further suggesting data shouldn’t be the determining factor.
“If you can swing 127 miles an hour, like, power to you. I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer so that the fastest mile time doesn’t change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?
“Like, no. It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. We’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, so good for you. So yeah, as you can tell, I’m clearly against it.”
Whether the likes of the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and Augusta National adopt this new MLR is yet to be seen or heard with none of them commenting on the situation currently, but what we can expect is for this debate to continue rumbling on.
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