Justin Thomas, the world No 3, has launched a withering critique on the governing bodies’ plans to roll back the ball and place new restrictions on clubs, warning the R&A and US Golf association that they would be “extremely selfish” to undo all the equipment-makers’ “hard work” and investment over the last few decades.
It was expected that Bryson DeChambeau to go on the offensive following Tuesday’s announcement that 48in drivers are almost certain to be banned and that limits are set to be introduced on the distance balls can be hit. But golf’s biggest-hitter announced he was “flattered” and“welcomed” the impending overhaul. It was left to fellow US Ryder Cup player Thomas to fire off the retaliatory barbs, urging the powers-that-be to think again in the consolation process that runs until November.
“I don’t think there’s any reason or it’s not necessary at all to change the golf ball,” he said. “I am fine with them maybe not going any farther with it, but I think Tiger [Woods] said it a while ago that they missed that opportunity probably 20 or so years ago.
“Companies have put billions of dollars – I don’t actually know that, so I’ll say ‘millions’ – into the construction of golf balls and equipment, and to be perfectly honest, I think it would be extremely selfish of the USGA and the R&A to do that because of all the hard work that they’ve put in to make their equipment and balls as great as they possibly can…
“Maybe [the R&A and USGA should] just take a step back and realise that we’re doing some pretty awesome things with the ball and the clubs, and also look at your everyday golfer and go up to him and tell him that you want him to hit it shorter just because the top .001 percent of all golfers are hitting it too far.”
The “Distance Insight Report” jointly released by the R&A and USGA last year, highlighted the alarming increase in hitting distances by the pros, leading the authorities to advocate change “to avoid long-term implications for the sport”. Yet Thomas believes the advances in technology are not to blame for the likes of DeChambeau threatening to make 400-yard drives common occurrences and so render great courses obsolete.
“I think distance is what it is right now because of us and because of a lot of the players are training and becoming stronger and more optimal in their distance,” Thomas said. “If you give us different stuff we’re still going to try to find a way to hit it as far as we possibly can.”
DeChambeau was rather more concillatory, although essentially preached the same message. “It’s a little flattering in a sense, because I did talk about that 48-inch driver for so long – but it just didn’t work for me the way I wanted it to,” he said. “I’m still playing the 45 1/2 driver and it’s suiting me perfectly. There’s no issue. It’s funny, I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement about me having a potentially controversial thought on it but I don’t. I think it’s a really cool thought process.
“I welcome it as long as they don’t change the human element. I’m going to do what that they say is legal and I’ll just go from there and find the best way to play for me under the rules of golf.”
DeChambeau tees it up in this week at the European Tour’s Saudi International. With vast quantities of appearance money being paid, the controversial event has attracted four of the world’s top 10 (world No 1 Dustin Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed, as well as DeChambeau). Thomas, meanwhile, is appearing at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, with Rory McIlroy also in that PGA Tour field.