Rory McIlroy takes aim at R&A and USGA in extraordinary outburst

“Rory McIlroy” by Andrew Campbell Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Rory McIlroy takes aim at R&A and USGA in extraordinary outburst 

Rory Mcllroy arrived in Arizona for the playing of the Phoenix Open with a score to settle. You can normally count on the Northern Irishman giving a fairly candid answer most of the time in his best efforts to steer clear of the usual mundane dross that professional athletes offer up to the media, but even this was quite unexpected.

Mcllroy, who was airing his grievances about how much energy the R&A and USGA are putting into finding out how far the ball goes, said it was a move that ‘reeks of self-importance.’ When one paraphrases Mcllroy’s comments, you can see that his main argument is that the rules changes at the top aren’t going to affect 99.9% of the golfers in the world. Indeed, the 31-year-old was put out that millions of dollars were being spent on this when it could perhaps be better spent investing in golf’s grassroots level.

A good point well made. However, the counterargument is that any changes to the ball and how far it goes that the R&A and USGA end up making would not apply to your local club golfer. McIlroy’s strong opinion on these changes is not necessarily aligned with how these changes would affect the 99.9% of people he is talking about. The powers that be of world golf are only interested in shortening how far the pros hit the ball and will leave any amateur golfer to their own devices.

Of course, the Royal Liverpool 2014 Open Champion is right to put pressure on the custodians of world golf to invest more in growing the game, but the R&A and the USGA are more than within their rights to explore how far the ball goes at the top level.

Without a doubt, Bryson DeChambeau’s dismantling of revered golf courses was the final straw for the R&A and USGA. However, just because the Californian was able to send it into different postcodes off the tee, didn’t mean he would always be the eventual winner. Indeed, who can forget DeChambeau’s monstrous drive at the Travelers Championship that went 428 yards, only for the American to make a bogey?

The old adage of driving for show and putting for dough remains as true as ever. If a player can hit the ball far, as well as chip competently and putt clinically, then they are going to win golf tournaments. But only if they can do all three.

One just has to think back to the great concern around DeChambeau overpowering Augusta at the 2020 Masters, only for him to finish over par on his last round and in 34th place. You may argue that was a once-off and the latest golf betting odds on the Masters 2021 paints a more accurate picture. With DeChambeau one of the favourites at 9/1 to win, no one would argue that given how good a player he is. But if the 27-year-old can’t putt or chip, he won’t win a green jacket, no matter how far he hits it.

Perhaps that is something that the R&A and USGA should consider when working out how much money they intend on spending in order to limit how far the ball can go.

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