ON THE RECORD: What golf's biggest names are saying about the ball rollback

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The golf world is split over the decision by the game’s governing bodies to roll back the ball.

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At this point, the split doesn’t seem particularly even with the vast majority of professionals and recreational players disagreeing with the decision.

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However, among those in support of the change are three of golf’s all-time greats: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Here’s what some notable figures in golf had to say:

Tiger Woods at last week’s Hero World Challenge:

“This has been I guess the talk ever since I’ve been out on Tour. And then to finally see it come to this point where I think both governing bodies who control the rules around the world are going to come to a collaborative understanding of how far — we just don’t have enough property anymore. So I think that understanding that yeah, we’ve been hammering (that) the ball needs to slow down, but it has kept speeding up my entire time on career and here we are.”

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“I’m hitting the ball further now than I did in ’96, but that’s not because of power, it’s just because of tech. You give me that ball that I hit back then and my driver and that shaft, it doesn’t go what it does now. As I said, I’m hitting the ball further than I did when I first came out on Tour, but that’s all relative. I was the longest on Tour and now I’m just above average with the ball being longer at the same time. The whole field’s gotten longer.”

Tiger supports separate rules for pros vs. amateurs, something originally in the plan but scrapped:

“As I told you guys, I’ve always been for bifurcation. I’ve always said that. Just like wood bats and metal bats.”

Rory McIlroy recently on social media:

“I don’t understand the anger about the golf ball roll back. It will make no difference whatsoever to the average golfer and puts golf back on a path of sustainability. It will also help bring back certain skills in the pro game that have been eradicated over the past 2 decades.”

“The governing bodies presented us with that option earlier this year. Elite pros and ball manufacturers think bifurcation would negatively affect their bottom lines, when in reality, the game is already bifurcated. You think we play the same stuff you do? They put pressure on the governing bodies to roll it back to a lesser degree for everyone. Bifurcation was the logical answer for everyone, but yet again in this game, money talks.”

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Justin Thomas in March, firmly against any rollback:

“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. And I’m like, well, there shouldn’t be a but. You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

“They’re basing it off the top .1 percent of all golfers. You know what I mean? I don’t know how many of y’all consistently play golf in here, but I promise none of you have come in from the golf course and said, ‘you know, I’m hitting it so far and straight today that golf’s just not even fun anymore.’ It’s just not reality.

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“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. Like, 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.”

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Sam Burns in March:

“Personally, I think it’s pretty silly. I would say if you look at the last few years of golf, I think the game has grown tremendously. At the end of the day, no matter what it is we’re an entertainment sport and I think, I don’t think people necessarily want to come out here and watch guys hit it shorter. They enjoy watching guys go out there and hit it 350 yards. I don’t see what the problem is with that. I think that’s a skill and I don’t really agree with trying to take that away.”

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Analyst Brandel Chamblee on social media:

“It is a very small number of people that are in favour of a roll back. Golf course architects of which there are what, maybe a hundred or so? Golf course architect geeks of which there are maybe a few thousand? And a very few tour players and former tour players, compared to 50 million global golfers against it and 28,000 PGA of America members against it and most every single touring professional against it.

“Because a few tour players through years of practice, thousands of hours in the gym, and yes, advances in tech, can carry the ball 283.8 yards they want to penalize 50 million golfers? Appreciate the athleticism of the best, but don’t punish the only people in the game that will feel the sting of this decision.”

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Jack Nicklaus, who has been calling for a rollback for 40 years, at the 2023 Masters:

“Power has always been a plus. Today, the (professional) game is balanced more toward power. I don’t know whether there’s an imbalance. I think we are going to run out of land … I think that’s what the USGA is trying to do where it gets back maybe more in balance.

(Bobby Jones) said the biggest problem we have to face in the game in the future is the distance of how far the golf ball goes. Back in about 1930, OK? So the problem hasn’t changed.”

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