Ridley: Augusta National supports ball rollback, says ‘we don’t have a lot’ of room left

Ridley: Augusta National supports ball rollback, says ‘we don’t have a lot’ of room left
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National Golf Club supports the USGA and R&A’s decision to roll back the golf ball, chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday during his annual pre-Masters press conference.

Back in December, golf’s governing bodies announced a measure to curb ever-increasing distance gains in the game, rolling back the golf ball for all golfers an estimated 9 to 15 yards by increasing the swing speed at which balls are tested starting in 2028.

For almost seven decades, the Masters was played at just over 6,900 yards. Today the course measures 7,550 yards – one hole (the par-5 second) was lengthened (by 10 yards) prior to this year’s tournament – and Ridley said, “we may well play one of the tournament rounds this year at more than 7,600 yards.”

“I’ve said in the past that I hope we will not play the Masters at 8,000 yards, but that is likely to happen in the not too distant future under current standards,” Ridley added. “Accordingly, we support the decisions that have been made by the R&A and the USGA as they have addressed the impact of distance at all levels of the game.”

Though the ball rollback now has the support of pro golf’s biggest tournament, several other tours, including the PGA Tour, and many equipment manufacturers remain opposed to it.

“Throughout the process, we have provided feedback to the USGA and The R&A and are pleased to see a number of our recommendations reflected in this most recent announcement,” the Tour said via statement last December. “However, we believe the proposed increase in test clubhead speed to 125 mph is disproportional to the rate of increase we see when analyzing PGA Tour radar data. In conjunction with guidance from the Player Advisory Council, Player Directors and Policy Board, we will continue to share our feedback with the USGA and The R&A.”

Added Acushnet, parent company of Titleist: “We support the position of the PGA Tour and others that there are many areas of focus at the elite level, including initiatives related to golf course setup and conditioning, and other competitive variables which, if desired, can limit the effects of distance while also providing the opportunity for a diverse skill set to succeed at the highest level.”

Ridley expounded on his initial comments, saying that if the rollback was not universally adopted by the pro tours, it would have negative consequences.

“Assuming that these regulations are adopted by the PGA Tour and the other tours, and I certainly hope they will be, I think were they not adopted it would cause a great deal of stress in the game, which it doesn’t need right now,” Ridley said. “As I understand, and I don’t think it’s across the board, but, I mean, if you use 5 percent as an approximate number, a player hitting it 320 yards is going to lose 16 yards. So, I mean, that’s not insignificant. What we found, though, over the years is that we lengthen the golf course, everybody says it’s really long, and then two or three years later it’s not so really long. So, my guess is that even when this change is implemented that maybe other aspects of technology that are within the rules and the physicality and ability, technical ability of the players will catch up. I mean, I don’t believe that we will start building new tees closer to the greens. It’s a possibility, I suppose, but I doubt it. Particularly since this is not going to be implemented for quite some time. So, I think we have some time to look and see what’s going to happen.

“We have some more room, but we don’t have a lot. So, I’m holding to that 8,000-yard red line, and I just hope we never get there.”

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