The R&A and USGA have already revealed that they will adopt the bifurcated ball at The Open and US Open – and it looks like Augusta will do the same. Matt Chivers explains
Masters chairman Fred Ridley has confirmed the tournament’s support for the golf ball roll back proposal which has divided opinion in the sport.
Though the R&A and USGA’s plans are still in what Ridley called “the comment period”, he declared firm backing for the Model Local Rule which could change how golf balls are tested.
One of the key talking points of the 2023 Masters has been the extension of the 13th hole, which has been made longer to cope with increased hitting distances on tour.
The MLR, which the governing bodies have already confirmed would be used at their biggest championships, could chop off up to 15 yards from elite players’ tee shots, but Ridley asserted that Augusta National is behind any addressing of the distance debate in golf.
“Our position has always been that we support the governing bodies,” he said during his traditional Wednesday press conference. “We do support the proposal, but because it’s in the middle of a comment period, it could change.
“The whole purpose of the comment period is to take the input from the industry. So we will look at the final product and make a decision.
“I’ve stated that we believe distance needs to be addressed. The natural conclusion is, yes, we will be supportive.
“The players who I have spoken with would be no surprise to you, it’s been players that have been pretty consistent over the years, not just as it relates to Augusta National, but just as to the issue of distance generally and how they feel about it.
“I’ve read some of the recent comments about the Model Local Rule, and there are certainly a number of players who have voiced opposition to it.
“I’m sure there are reasons for those opinions. I would also say that equally – there are some notable players that have some pretty strong opinions that this is the right thing to do.”
He added: “I do listen to players. We had a great evening at the Champions Dinner, and as I do every year, I solicited the input of all of our champions.
“I told them that we typically don’t take a lot of suggestions, but they have the license to feel free to do so.”
Since the announced plans to roll back the golf ball, players such as Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, and Bryson DeChambeau have strongly opposed the idea.
As for the brands, both TaylorMade and Acushnet, the owners of Titleist, have disputed the plans.
However, Rory McIlroy is in favour of a golf ball roll back and said the proposal could “help identify who the best players are a bit easier”, while Tiger Woods is also in that camp.
Ridley concluded by confirming that if manufacturers were to refuse to make golf balls under the MLR, Augusta would not stretch to producing their own.