Justin Thomas is not happy with what the USGA and R&A announced this week.
Thomas, ahead of the Valspar Championship on Wednesday, railed against the proposed plan to deaden the golf ball for elite male players.
“You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said. “It’s so bad for the game of golf.”
On Tuesday, two of golf’s governing bodies announced a plan that would force golfers to use a modified ball designed to limit distance. The proposal, which would start in 2026 if it is adopted, would reduce driver distance by about 15 yards. Only the top golfers, not amateur golfers, would be affected.
The golf balls, per ESPN, would have to conform to not exceed the overall distance of 320 yards on carry and roll.
This season, Tour players are averaging just over 297 yards on drives. Both the USGA and R&A said distances have been increasing by about 1 yard per year, and that this chance would help keep the game sustainable over the decades to come.
“If we simply do nothing, we pass that to the next generation and to all the golf course venues around the world for them to just simply figure it out,” USGA CEO Mike Wahn said, via ESPN.
If the PGA Tour does not adopt this rule change, golfers would only have to use the modified balls twice a year at the US Open and the British Open.
“So for two of the four biggest events of the year we’re going to have to use a different ball? Like, try to explain to me how that’s better for the game of golf,” Thomas said. “And they’re basing it off the top 0.1% 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. Like, no, that’s not — it’s just not reality.”
Sure, golfers are hitting the ball further now than ever before. John Daly was the first golfer to average more than 300 yards off the tee in 1997. Now, 83 golfers are averaging at least 300 yards off the tee this season. Rory McIlroy leads the way at 326.6 yards. Thomas is averaging 305.6 yards off the tee, which is the 40th best on Tour.
But golf, just like other sports, is growing. Stopping that natural progression, Thomas said, just doesn’t make any sense.
“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?” Thomas asked.
“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.”