NORTON, Mass. -- If the game's rulemakers ultimately decide to roll back the firepower of the current golf ball, Tiger Woods says he would understand.
Mind you, Woods didn't definitively say whether he was in favor of such a move -- maybe his Nike underpinnings were in the back of his mind -- but it sounds like he sees the wisdom of letting some of the helium out of the super-hot contemporary ball.
Even Woods admits that the balls fly farther seemingly every time out. He says he’s hitting it farther than ever, even while trying to rebuild his game.
The U.S. Golf Association last month conducted a semi-secret test with dozens of Canadian Tour players who were sworn to secrecy, another in a series of tests with special balls that reportedly travel perhaps 20 less than the current models on the market. The USGA asked manufacturers to produce a less-caffeinated ball several years ago for testing purposes andhas been painstakingly piecing together data ever since.
Obviously, the organization is in no real hurry. Even though legendary figures such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who more than dabble in course design and have had to make incessant design concessions because of the distance gains in the modern game, have advocated a rollback of the ball for the past decade.
On Thursday, Woods was asked at the Deutsche Bank Championship about his view on the issue, which is being studied by the USGA. The organization has yet to release any findings from its various studies.
“It's just something, the guys are hitting it a long way,” Woods said. “For instance, last week, No. 8 is a par-3 down the hill, playing 207 the last day, and I hit 7-iron. I don't ever hit 7-iron that far. Then I watched Dustin Johnson hit 9-iron.
“It's just, I can understand them wanting to obviously pull the game back a little bit, because the guys are just becoming more athletic. Here I am 6 foot and I'm considered short. Most of the guys now are 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Just like every other sport, it's evolved, become more athletic.
“The guys have speed, and now we're getting some great athletes playing the game.”
Well, hacks with 99 mph swing speeds are blowing it out there a comparative mile, too.
Woods has a point about better athletes. To wit, he’s not remotely one of the biggest players on the Ryder Cup roster, assuming he gets picked with a wild-card selection Tuesday.
American team members Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Jeff Overton and even Matt Kuchar all are taller than he is, though Kuchar is medium-length off the tee.
As for a rule that has been changed in the blink of an eye, Woods was much more on the fence. After Jim Furyk was disqualified last week for missing is pro-am time for oversleeping, the tour elected to suspend the rule requiring him to be deemed ineligible for playing in the tournament proper. The modified pro-am rule was put in place this year, but suspended this week after the Furyk blowback.
Phil Mickelson openly supported blowing up the rule. Woods similarly plays in the pro-am every week he tees it up, the four majors and Players Championship not included.
"I would think they would have waited until after the season was completed," Woods said. "It's only affected one player so far this year, and that was Jim. But I can understand it; I just thought it might have been a little premature, a little early to do that. But that's just the way it is."