Listen To What The Man Said
Tuesday's rollback rollout and reactions say a lot about the people involved in the game.
Two different attitudes were on display Tuesday with the R&A and USGA joint announcement of proposed competition-only ball testing.
The Man was lucid, calm and coherent. Even likable and on the same page.
Modern golfers—with a two refreshing exceptions in Matt Fitzpatrick and Brandon Matthews—came off as stooges who legitimately believe the $80 billion (American) golf industry and the world’s 70 million players revolve around their needs and those of their suppliers in Carlsbad and Fairhaven.
The contrast between the adults explaining their years-in-the-making rationale for taking a no-win stand on distance and those haphazardly channeling industry talking points offered even the most neutral observer evidence that the modern golf professional is a grotesquely selfish, poorly informed, frighteningly soft and an often incoherent agent of the sport they purportedly love to play.
That’s right, the people who’ve come to take 15-20 yards away came off as sensible and not like the envious, crusty and disrespectful types they’re usually made out to be. Other than wearing stock blue blazers and repp ties, they failed to come off as arrogant, close-minded or even eager to enact a rollback for elite players, but explained why right thing for the obvious reasons: golf is the only sport with vast, complicated and beautiful stages that can’t keep adjusting to equipment innovations just to pad already record profits rolling in for at least two companies.
As a longtime tracker of the absurd things pro say about distance and the impact lax regulation has had on golf’s greatest asset—the courses—I anticipated shallowness from those getting texted nonsensical talking points, even though their soft cast urethane suppliers had years to prepare for this day. Select players wheeled out the latest empty buzzword—unification—as a giveaway who was bending their ears. And for all of the nonsense shared, it was still fascinating to see what lengths golf pros would go to in pimping the party line.
The confused, random and Nuke LaLoosh vibe to remarks looked worse after The Man, a.k.a Martin Slumbers from the R&A and Mike Whan of the USGA (along with their lieutenants), discussed the layers to the distance topic with a calm and genuineness their predecessors sometimes lacked. (You can view their press session here or read the transcript here.)
The steadiness and openness came in stark contrast to players and pundits who parroted thin talking points and weird claims. The nonsensical claims ranged from surprise at the news, to insisting the entire game’s well being hinges on the joy of watching them hit the ball as long as possible, to suggestions that the game has not materially changed in any way over the last twenty years, to a gripe of poor timing because the Tour is dealing with the LIV threat. As if they are the center of the universe and 70 million of us must pause moving forward so they can iron out purse structures and the playing opportunities of a few hundred men.
There were also the traditional claims of giving adults the freedom to buy what the pros play as a core value to be protected at the expense of courses, water, safety or the bottom line of courses just trying to hang on.
Lord Bryson, clad in creepy serial killer logos while fronting his LIV team, chimed in with nuclear grade narcissism tinged with SMU English to make the governing bodies look even wiser. Another player wisely withheld his name in claiming the PGA Tour’s charitable partners are apparently at risk because of Tuesday’s proposal, not because millions getting funneled to tournament purses.