Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas fume at 'atrocious' and 'selfish' ball roll-back proposals
Bryson DeChambeau has led the locker room outrage towards the proposals of the R&A and US Golf Association to roll back the ball by calling it “the most atrocious thing they could possibly do to the game of golf".
The governing bodies announced on Tuesday that they intend to bring in a “Model Local Rule” for use only in elite competition that would effectively reduce the distance the pros drive by approximately 15 yards and the reception was predictably fiery from the young millionaires who rule the fairways.
At the very least, the R&A and USGA can congratulate themselves for uniting the warring factions of LIV Golf rebels and PGA Tour loyalists. Because after DeChambeau’s tirade came Justin Thomas’s diatribe in which he also lambasted the impending overhaul as “so bad for the game” and accused the USGA of being “selfish”.
DeChambeau’s rant took centre stage, however. The 29-year-old is regarded as the biggest hitter in the game, with his annihilation of the previously feared Winged Foot layout in the 2020 US Open credited as convincing the powers that be to act decisively in a debate that had been raging for decades.
“It’s a great handicap for us guys that have worked really hard to learn how to hit it farther,” he said in Tucson, where the second £21 million event of the LIV season is teeing off on Friday.
“I think it’s the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do to the game of golf. It’s not about rolling golf balls back; it’s about making golf courses more difficult.
'Everybody wants to see people hit it farther'
“It's the most unimaginative, uninspiring, game-cutting thing you could do. Everybody wants to see people hit it farther. That’s part of the reason why a lot of people like what I do. It’s part of the reason a lot of people don’t like what I do.
“But again, it creates more conversation in a positive way than cutting it back and trying to make everybody equal. I’m all about equality. I’m not about equity on this front.”
In Tampa, where Thomas the two-time USPGA winner is playing in Thursday’s first round of the Valspar Championship, the tone was similarly furious.
“I think the USGA over the years has made some pretty selfish decisions,” he said. "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 I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. They’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s so bad for the game of golf.”
Thomas is upset that he will be forced to play a different ball from recreational players. The two-time PGA Champion is sponsored by leading ball-maker Titleist who had already come out in strong opposition to the roll-back.
“For an everyday amateur golfer, it’s unique that we are able to play the exact same equipment,” he said wearing a Titleist cap
“I understand that I may have a different grind on a wedge, whatever you want to call it, but you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays or whatever. But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case.
"So why are this group of five- to 15-handicapped amateurs determining the rules of golf for professional golfers?”
In fairness to the R&A and USGA, pros of the calibre of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have long urged for tighter ball-restrictions to be introduced to ensure that great layouts are not rendered obsolete and that the sport does not become too one-dimensional.
And they were expecting the blowback from the current elite, with Mike Whan, the USGA chief executive, warning on Tuesday “this won’t be easy, this won’t be fun. People don't like change and they're 25 years old, in the prime of their careers and hitting the ball a long way.”
In that sense Thomas did not disappoint.
“They’re basing it off the top 0.1 per cent of all golfers,” he said. “I promise you that no golfer has ever come in from the course and said: ‘You know, I’m hitting it so far and straight today that golf’s just not even fun anymore.' No!
'It’s evolution. We’re athletes now'
“I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer? It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. We’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, good for you. As you can tell, I’m clearly against it.”
With the Masters almost certain to adopt the local rule, it would be highly unlikely for the traditional Tours not to follow suit (although LIV could view it as another chance to be disruptive). But Thomas posed the notion, however unrealistic, that Sawgrass HQ could actually defy the R&A and USGA.
“So is it something where down the road if you want to change something based off your data that we feel is pretty biased and incorrect and self-centred, then maybe we'll just create our own or we'll do our own thing?,” he said.
“I don't know where the Tour stands on that. But to my knowledge, they haven't necessarily been on board with wanting to roll back the ball... It's about the game of golf. If I can hear some reasons that claim it's better for the game of golf, then so be it, but I've yet to hear any.”
The proposals are not due to be implemented until Jan 1, 2026. In a golfing era dominated by civil war, another front has plainly opened.