'We need separate rules for pros and amateurs'January 16, 2019 Rules of Golf
The 2019 Rules of Golf meets the European Tour in Abu Dhabi. Mark Townsend trawled the range to see what the stars really think of the changes
It’s all we’ve talked about for what seems like months and, now, for the first time the European Tour players get to give the new Rules of Golf a go.
There are daily seminars planned for the players with the R&A and European Tour as a new dawn begins. We asked the great and good of the European Tour, and those here in Abu Dhabi on exorbitant appearance fees, to get their thoughts on the 2019 changes.
Players: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Matt Wallace, Richard McEvoy, Robert Karlsson, Jack Singh Brar
Coach: Jamie Gough
Caddie: Terry Mundy
So let’s see what they have to say, beginning with everyone’s favourite new rule…
Putting with the flag in
Fleetwood: It’s a little bit odd, isn’t it? But you grow up as a kid on the putting green just putting with the pin in and then scoop it out. We need a little scoop now at the bottom of the pins. It will make it more realistic. It’s going to be a trial-and-error thing. It might be the case after one tournament, I might just take the pin out or I might leave it in every time.
Koepka: It just feels weird when it’s in. In Hawaii the first few rounds it was out and the last round I putted a lot with it in, just to test it out. It feels weird from five feet. I’m going to pull it out. I don’t like it. I’ve gone my whole career with pulling the flag out so why are we going to switch it out now? I seem to have done all right with it out.
Maybe I’ll keep it in for the downhill sliders. You look at like a place like Augusta where you’ve got a real tricky putt where if you miss it you’re probably going to run it three or four feet by and you can still be aggressive with the flag in, something like that.
Brar: Bryson DeChambeau has left the flag in but whenever I’ve hit the flag it’s always popped out to the side and so I can’t picture the ball going in.
McEvoy: I can’t get used to it, maybe from 25 feet but no way from short range. Mentally I don’t think I’d be able to hit a good putt with the flag in, I just can’t see it working. All I can see is hitting the pin and coming out. Thin plastic pins might help but the hard ones on Tour you can only see it coming off it, particularly at pace.
It’s going to slow down play in the professional game, it’s great in the amateur game but I think it will do the opposite for us. It’s going to take forever at times.
Gough: I’ve no idea why they’ve brought this in. It’s based on speeding things up but I think eventually guys will just go back to having the flag out. Forty feet it might work but 90% of the guys will have the flag out most of the time anyway.
Wallace: There should be separate rules for pros and amateurs. We’ve got caddies who tend the flag. The rules will slow things down. You’ll see a few lucky putts this year when it might have gone miles past and some will drop.
Mundy: It’s very time-saving for amateurs but the complete opposite for tournament golf. It really is two different sports and there needs to be a rule for the pros and amateurs but that’s just opening a can of worms for the rule book. It wouldn’t surprise me if they override this in the professional game as it’s going to slow down play a lot.
Westwood: I like the cleanness of nothing there. I won’t be putting with the flag in, unless it’s from a long way away and slippery, you know, downhill.
To me, it makes the hole smaller. There’s a chance of it hitting the flag if it’s going a bit fast. I suppose there’s a chance of it hitting the flag and going in and slowing it down but there’s a chance of it hitting the flag and bouncing out. So six of one, half a dozen of the other, isn’t it?
Johnson: I tried to hit a couple putts with the flag in in Hawaii and I couldn’t do it. If I do some more testing and I feel like it’s beneficial to leave the flag in then it could possibly see some situations where I’ll do that. But as of right now, I’m going to putt with the flag out.
Karlsson: On longer putts maybe just leave it in, otherwise it shouldn’t make much difference. Never from five feet, why would you? I need to test a bit at home on some quick greens, Edoardo Molinari has done some research so he’s the one to ask.
The knee-high drop
Brar: The knee one is a weird position to get into, I was doing it at home the other day and it makes you want to bend your knee but you can’t. You can see why they’ve done it, the bunker drop has less chance of plugging and there will be less re-drops as it really doesn’t move.
McEvoy: I’ve not practised it yet, I find it a bit pathetic. You wonder why they’ve changed some of them. Dropping over your shoulder like the old days was odd, dropping it from shoulder high is normal. Now people will try and take advantage of it and you’ll now have to keep an eye on people taking a drop whereas you didn’t before.
Karlsson: I’ve practised it once. I played a practice round and I was by a sprinkler so I took a drop and it felt like I was cheating. It makes sense to save on the re-drops and we do that a lot so I think it’s a really good thing.
Mundy: I can see how it’s a benefit in certain situations as you don’t want it rolling too far but I don’t see why you can’t continue to drop from shoulder height if you still want to. You’re not gaining an advantage.
Gough: Another strange one. I teach Andy Sullivan and, for him, it’s almost placing it!
Being able to tap down spike marks and the three-minute time limit for searching for lost balls are next up on our panel’s minds. Find out what they think on the next page…