Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau join calls against plan to modify golf balls and limit distances
It looks like LIV Golfers and PGA Tour golfers have found a little common ground.
Both Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau joined Justin Thomas in railing against the USGA and R&A’s recent proposal to introduce modified golf balls designed to limit distance.
"The sport is at an all-time high, so let's don't mess with it," Watson said ahead of LIV Golf’s second event of the season this week in Arizona, via the Palm Beach Post. "Let's just keep it growing."
Two of golf’s governing bodies announced a plan this week that would force top golfers to use modified balls designed to limit distance off the tee. The balls would have to conform to not exceed the overall distance of 320 yards on carry and roll. The plan would reduce driver distance by about 15 yards, and only impact the highest level of the sport.
The USGA and R&A, which run the U.S. Open and British Open championships, respectively, have said that distances are increasing by about 1 yard per year off the tee and that this plan, which would start in 2026, would keep the game sustainable in the coming decades.
It’s unclear if the PGA Tour or other leagues would adopt this rule change. If they don't, it’s something that could only be required at the U.S. Open and British Open.
Thomas, ahead of the Valspar Championship this week, said the plan was "so bad for the game of golf."
"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,” Thomas said. “Like, no, that's not — it's just not reality."
Watson cited DeChambeau, who is one of the longest hitters in the sport. DeChambeau led the Tour in driving distance in both 2019 and 2020, and set a then-record averaging 322.1 yards off the tee.
"Just because you hit it farther doesn't mean it's going to go straighter," Watson said. "I'm not trying to throw Bryson under the bus, but Bryson tried to do something, he did do it, but he dialed it back a little. He still hits it farther than everybody but he dialed it back a little because he realized your misses are farther … because I've been dealing with that for a while, my misses are farther off."
This season on Tour, golfers are averaging just more than 297 yards per drive. Rory McIlroy is averaging a Tour-best 326.6 yards per drive, and Thomas is averaging 305.6 yards, which is 40th best on Tour.
While he understands the logic for it on paper, DeChambeau didn’t hold back when criticizing the plan.
"Look, if they do it in a way where it only affects the top end, I see the rationale," DeChambeau told LIV Golf. “But 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.
"I think 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."