As the 87th Masters begins on Thursday, the PGA Tour’s most vocal defenders and the six LIV Golf defectors might have tension at their Champions Dinner on the night before. Scottie Scheffler is hosting the evening for past winners, offering a choice between steak or fish which serves as a reminder that one can never be too boring. Although Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson may not agree on everything, their strong presence at the event will show solidarity between them.
The on-going battle of PGA v LIV as well as the future of the golf ball might overshadow the Masters this year. In the late 1990s, thanks to the urethane-covered solid core ball that was more durable but also flew farther and straighter, the game saw a major change. The impact was huge as Dan Pohl led the PGA tour in average driving distance with 280 yards in 1981 and in the 2005 he was leading the Champions tour with an average drive of 300.5 yards, emphasizing the dramatic increases.
Understanding the potential danger posed by the ball, the USGA and R&A proposed a “model local rule” which would permit tournaments to use a ball that does not fly as far and estimations have it that players with the highest swing speeds could lose up to 15 yards in length. This decision is being highly contested as the ball manufacturers are not willing to accept bifurcation, arguing this will drastically reduce the value of the game for the average amateur.
Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, that has overseen renovations such as the expansion of the 13th hole from 510 to 545 yards in an attempt to restore the strategic challenges and the addition of large driving range and practice area, will surely cover the possibility of future ball regulations during his annual press session.
This is an important moment as the use of a prospective local rule could render great differences in major championships seeing that the USGA and R&A oversee two and the PGA of America, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, has not yet declared if they will follow their example. Moreover, the reaction of golfers such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson can influence the public opinion far beyond the Champions Dinner.
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