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Two-time champion Justin Thomas said proposed rule changes that would limit how far players can drive in elite golf tournaments would harm the sport.
“You’re trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. To me, it’s very bad for the game of golf,” Thomas told reporters Wednesday before this week’s Valspar tournament in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Driving distances average around 300 yards on the PGA Tour, but many players are well over that, which means some courses are in danger of becoming stale.
The proposal from the Royal, Ancient and United States Golf Association would give tournament organizers the option of requiring players to only use balls that meet the maximum distance criteria. Under the proposal, which will be in effect from 2026, balls must not exceed 320 yards at a clubhead speed of 127 miles per hour.
“If you can swing at 127 miles an hour, that’s your power,” said Thomas. “People run faster, so what, are they just going to make a mile longer so the faster 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 an evolution.”
It would be “the most horrible thing you can do in golf,” former US Open champion Brisson DeChambeau, one of the sport’s longest-serving hitters, said.
“It’s not about rolling golf balls backwards. It’s about making golf courses harder,” DeChambeau said Tuesday before a LIV Golf event in Tucson, Arizona. “I think it’s the most unimaginative, uninspired and game-diminishing thing you can do. Everyone wants to see people beat it away.”
Governing bodies receive feedback from manufacturers and others on proposed changes through August 14.
“In the discussions and arguments that will certainly follow over the coming days and weeks that we will all be a part of, I think we will always find ourselves in this discussion about someone saying, ‘Why are you doing this today,’” said USGA CEO Mike Wan. “The game is good today.” …or the game can’t continue 20 or 40 years from now, the kind of increases that are incredibly easy to predict.
“If we simply do nothing, we pass that on to the next generation and to all golf courses around the world so that they simply figure it out.”
Thomas said he was disappointed but not surprised by the suggestion.
“I think the USGA has been — in my eyes, tough — over the years — but they’ve made some very selfish decisions,” he said. “They have definitely done, in my opinion, a lot of things that are not intended to improve the game, even though they claim to be.”
Information from ESPN’s Mark Schlapbach and Reuters contributed to this report.