UN­DER­COVER TOUR PRO

What the locker room is say­ing about the rules changes.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - With Max Adler.

Sim­pler is bet­ter. It’s a truth that per­tains to ev­ery­thing in life.That’s why I’m in favour of the pro­posed “mod­erni­sa­tion” that will cut The Rules of Golf from 34 to 24. I don’t agree with all the changes, but I like the spirit of the un­der­tak­ing.

Many of my fel­low play­ers are not as open-minded. Among us, there ex­ists a strong bias against the USGA.When Far Hills made the an­nounce­ment, the vibe on the range was a caus­tic,“What the heck do those guys know about golf?” It’s un­fair, but that’s the per­cep­tion pros have.We in­ter­act with the USGA once a year at the US Open, which from our view is usu­ally a de­ba­cle.

Five or six things that feel ridicu­lously un­fair are guar­an­teed to hap­pen to you that week, like los­ing a ball in the rough one yard off the fair­way, or see­ing your stopped ball sud­denly roll 30 feet off a green. Un­less you’re the guy hold­ing the tro­phy at the end, you leave bit­ter. Even though the R&A is equally in­volved in the changes, Amer­i­can play­ers don’t have the same an­tipa­thy to­wards that or­gan­i­sa­tion. If the pro­posal had come from the In­ter­na­tional Golf Fed­er­a­tion, it would have been bet­ter re­ceived.

The USGA didn’t help re­la­tions by hav­ing a guy go­ing around at Riviera this year, os­ten­si­bly ask­ing our opin­ions on the rules.The press re­lease that landed two weeks later was clearly pretty much al­ready writ­ten. I was aware of the project, but I had no idea how dras­tic the changes would be. I’m not sure peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate yet just how much this will change the game.

I won’t sub­mit writ­ten feed­back to the USGA, but here’s what I’ll tell Mike Davis (with whom I have good rap­port) the next time I see him. ▶ Let­ting golfers fix spike marks is go­ing to be a dis­as­ter for slow play. We’ve all missed and made putts be­cause of spike marks. A lot of pros are ob­ses­sives, and they’re go­ing to be tamp, tamp, tamp­ing all day. ▶ Drop­ping a ball from any height baf­fles me. It’s the most talked-about change on tour, and none of us can work out what’s wrong with the cur­rent method.Are we go­ing to have of­fi­cials ly­ing on their stom­achs to en­sure balls are in fact dropped, not placed? Seems like an opportunity for cheat­ing. Don’t get me wrong: That golf is a game of hon­our is alive and well in the pro ranks.There’s way more scru­tiny from me­dia and fans try­ing to catch us do­ing things wrong than ac­tu­ally goes on. But drop­ping from an inch is go­ing to foster sus­pi­cion. ▶ The rest of the changes seem great. When­ever some­one is pe­nalised for a tech­ni­cal­ity, be it Dustin John­son pos­si­bly (the­o­ret­i­cally?) bump­ing his ball on the green at Oak­mont, or Carl Pet­ters­son ticking a leaf in his back­swing at Ki­awah, the re­ac­tion in the locker room is al­ways unan­i­mous:“What bull----!” If a player isn’t in­tend­ing to get an advantage, there should be no penalty.The USGA and R&A are try­ing to get rid of th­ese sit­u­a­tions. I think ca­sual golfers could go back to a close form of the orig­i­nal 13 rules writ­ten in Scot­land in 1744. For tour­na­ment golf, where big money is on the line, the rules should be con­stantly evolv­ing. In­stead of ev­ery four years, ev­ery three months or so the ma­jor tours should gather – maybe by con­fer­ence call – and dis­cuss odd cir­cum­stances and come up with com­mon-sense so­lu­tions.

For ex­am­ple, at Riviera, a guy in our three­some got to­tally hosed af­ter a rain de­lay. He’d had a clean lie in the bunker when the horn sounded, but when we came back, his spot had been washed out and he had to drop into a muddy plugged lie. Is that fair? It’s not for me to de­cide. Point is, th­ese sit­u­a­tions should be eval­u­ated on a more fre­quent ba­sis than they are now.

Pros know the rules, but we’re con­di­tioned to call of­fi­cials even for mat­ters as sim­ple as relief from a sprin­kler head. It’s just not worth the stress of do­ing it on your own. Even if the rules get sim­pler, it’ll be a long time be­fore we’re play­ing faster. –

“Let­ting golfers fix spike marks is go­ing to be a dis­as­ter for slow play.”

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