Restriction on the use of drivers over 46 inches… Mickelson “acting stupid”

Phil Mickelson cheers after becoming the first 50 major champion in history with a 47.9-inch driver at the PGA Championship in May. AP Yonhap News

The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal Golf Association (R&A) of the United Kingdom (R&A) are controversial as they announced on the 13th (local time) that they would implement a policy to restrict the length of driver shafts from next year. Phil Mickelson, who uses a long screwdriver, immediately protested, and other players are also bringing up the theory of uselessness.

The USGA and R&A have decided to implement the driver length restriction policy, which is opposed by long hitters such as Mickelson, in official and amateur competitions starting next year, BBC Sports reported on the same day. From January 1, next year, the current driver length limit of 46 inches can be applied instead of 48 inches. The USGA and R&A, however, explained that the enforcement of this policy was left to the organizers of the tournament, and only applied to official tournaments. This policy has been discussed since 2016, two years after the study on the effect of 48-inch and larger drivers on flying distance.

The USGA and R&A have criticized the infinitely long driving distance that undermines the essence of golf. In response to ‘long-hitting golf’, the length of the golf course increased, leading to an increase in costs, and it was not helpful to expand the golf base.

According to the U.S. Golf Channel, the average driver distance in 1980, when statistics were first recorded for PGA players, was 256.5 yards, but increased to 296.4 yards last year. It has increased by 39.9 yards over the past 40 years, which is believed to be due to equipment competition.

Associations and institutions welcome this decision. The US Professional Golf (PGA) Tour and the US Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour announced that they would apply this policy from January 1 next year, and major professional golf tours in Korea, Europe, and Japan are expected to follow suit.

Players who use drivers over 46 inches are the most strongly opposed. According to the USGA, 3% of players use drivers over 46 inches and 2% of the general population.

Phil Mickelson, 51, criticized this policy, saying, “Golf has been popular for the past 40 years, but the group is only trying to make it less fun. Mickelson became the first 50 major champion in history with a 47.9-inch driver at the PGA Championship in May. At the time, he also asked, “What is the rationale for limiting the length of the driver to 46 inches instead of 48 inches?” He pointed out, “I am reading the data wrong again.”

Athletes who do not use long drivers are also criticized for excessive policy. Justin Thomas pointed out that “the fact that there are not many players playing with long drivers has no advantage,” and said that the armba putt method should be regulated. The armbar putter, which holds a long putter on the forearm, is controversial among players. Colin Morikawa, known for his sophisticated iron shots, said, “Long hitting isn’t everything.” Jason Cockrack, who is famous as a long hitter, said, “My driver has never crossed 45 inches, but he hits farther than anyone else.”

Players are concerned that restrictions on driver head size and golf ball performance will follow after the driver length limit. However, the association said, “This is not a ‘golf rule’, it is a simple choice for a competitive event.”

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