THE CASE AGAINST ROLLING BACK

Golf World (UK) - - THE SPIN -

Moments be­fore Dustin John­son crushed that tee shot 341 yards over the lake at the North­ern Trust, Jor­dan Spi­eth had plot­ted a more stan­dard route: a 315-yard drive into the fair­way, leav­ing a 7-iron to the green. In those two ap­proaches we saw the case against rolling the ball back: in his abil­ity to pro­pel the ball such vast dis­tances, John­son is the ex­cep­tion not the norm. More play­ers are driv­ing the ball fur­ther than ever. In the 2000 sea­son, only John Daly av­er­aged over 300 yards off the tee. By the end of 2017 there were 43. But these are ex­tremes. In 2017, the USGA and R&A pro­duced num­bers to show that be­tween 2013 and 2016, the av­er­age PGA Tour driv­ing dis­tance had grown by 2.8 yards — 0.7 yards per year. “The slight up­s­lope over the past four years is some­thing we’re keep­ing a close eye on,” said John Spitzer, the USGA’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of equip­ment stan­dards.

That re­port pinned the driv­ing dis­tance in­crease as merely a “slow creep”, and not some­thing for them to act on — at least not yet. And you’ve got to think this is how the USGA like it. The sight and sound of a DJ or a Rory McIlroy pro­pel­ling 350-yard drives off and mak­ing birdies and ea­gles makes for bet­ter box of­fice, be­cause we fans want to see great play­ers do­ing things we can only dream of. It sells more tick­ets and keeps the gravy train on track and mov­ing for­wards.

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