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  • Alistair Tait

Surely enough is enough, Rory?

Eduardo Romero led the European Tour’s driving distance table in 1989, the year Rory McIlroy was born. The Argentinean averaged 276 yards per drive. Ed Humenik was the PGA Tour driving distance leader. He averaged 280.9 in the 1989 season.

Humenik was one of just three players to average over 280 in 1989. Twenty nine players averaged over 270 that season. Eleven European Tour players hit it over the then eye-watering 270 number.

Rory probably hits a 5-wood 270 yards.

The driving average numbers have changed dramatically in Rory’s lifetime. South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber averaged 340.47 yards on last year’s European Tour to lead the driving stats. Bryson DeChambeau led the PGA Tour with a 322.1 average. The tour average was 296.4. It was 261.1 in 1989.

Here are some other driving stats to mull over. Eighty six players averaged over 300 yards per drive on last season’s European Tour. Seventy-two players managed that on the American circuit.

Alvaro Quiros was the European Tour’s driving distance leader in 2007, the year Rory joined the tour. Quiros averaged 308.2 yards, one of four players to break the previously unthinkable 300 mark. Bubba Watson led the PGA Tour with a 315.2 average, and another 17 players broke 300 yards.

The numbers don’t lie, which is why Rory’s outburst at the R&A and USGA for wasting money on the Distance Insights Report issue is puzzling.

“The authorities are looking at the game through such a tiny little lens, that what they’re trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1% of the golfing community,” Rory said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people who play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use.
“We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers. Honestly, I think this Distance Insights Report has been a huge waste of time and a huge waste of money, because that money that it’s cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game.”

As I’ve said previously, I’m a massive Rory McIlroy fan, but he’s missed the point this time. It’s exactly the R&A and USGA's role to look at all aspects of the game, including driving distance. They would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t. If there is a criticism of the governing bodies, it’s that they didn’t act sooner. However, plaudits to them for acting now.

The vast majority of golfers, the 99.9%, probably won’t be told what clubs to hit. Only the .1% will. We’ll probably still be able to hit 48 inch drivers if we choose. But the governing bodies are well within their rights to demand elite players can’t hit 400 yard drives to reduce classic courses to drive and pitch layouts.

Why is that so hard to understand?

As for money “distributed to getting people into the game,” what planet has Rory been living on? R&A boss Martin Slumbers has made broadening the game’s appeal, especially to women, girls and families, one of the central tenets of his tenure. He, and all those people dedicated to growing the game, must be seething at Rory’s words.

Here’s another puzzling feature of Rory’s broadside. This is the same Rory who complained two years ago about European Tour courses being too easy’

“I’m honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15-under par and finishing 30th,” he said. “I think if the European Tour want to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and set ups need to be tougher.”

Many golf courses, especially in ideal conditions, are going to feel fairly easy when players are hitting drives over 300 yards and flipping wedges into greens.

No matter what side you take on the distance debate, the increases in Rory’s lifetime are staggering. Surely even he can see that? Surely even he has to admit enough is enough?

#JustSaying: "Golf was very different then from how it is now…. Most of us couldn’t carry 240 yards with a 3-wood even if you put it on a tee.” Ken Brown

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