The Grand Slam chasing star has gone against his peers by speaking out in favour of bifurcation. Here's what he had to say
The leading voices in the game have had their say on the golf ball roll back – and now the PGA Tour’s unofficial spokesman Rory McIlroy has waded into the debate.
Justin Thomas said it was “creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist” and Bryson DeChambeau described it as “the most atrocious thing to happen to golf”, while leading ball manufacturers Titleist and TaylorMade have also made their feelings clear on the bifurcation proposal.
But McIlroy has decided to focus on the positives and emphasised how important it was to leave the everyday golfer untouched by rolling back the golf ball.
The conditions under which golf balls are tested will be modified in the new plans put forward by the R&A and USGA to protect the sustainability of golf courses and the skill element of the sport.
And the four-time major champion believes PGA Tour players could develop well-rounded games and move away from “bomb and gouge tactics” under the new proposal – which could be implemented in 2026.
“I’ve been pretty adamant that I don’t really want the governing bodies to touch the recreational golfer,” he said on the No Laying Up podcast. “We need to make this game as not intimidating and as much fun as possible – just to try to keep the participation levels at an all-time high.
“So, I’m glad in this new proposal that they haven’t touched the recreational golfer. But, for elite-level play, I really like it. I really do.
“I know that’s a really unpopular opinion among my peers, but I think it’s going to help identify who the best players are a bit easier. Especially in this era of parity that we’ve been living in these past couple of decades.
“You guys use the term ‘golf has been dumbed down a little bit at the elite level’, and I completely agree.
“I think you’re going to see people with more well-rounded games succeed easier than what the game has become, which is a bit bomb and gouge over these last few years.
“Selfishly, I think it helps me. I think this is only going to help the better player. It might help the longer player too, in some ways, but I think it’s going to help the overall professional game.
“Making guys hit some long irons again, and some mid irons, and being able to hit every club in your bag in a round of golf – I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to do that.
“I don’t know if this change in the ball will make us do that, but it certainly is a step closer to that.”
The governing bodies have already said they are planning to have players use a rolled-back golf ball in their events, including The Open and US Open, while the PGA of America and Augusta National have yet to reveal their stances on the subject, but McIlroy believes it could help his quest for more major titles.
“Honestly, for me, the major championships are the biggest deal, so if the PGA Tour doesn’t implement it, I might still play the MLR ball, because I know that’ll give me the best chance, and the best preparation leading into the major championships,” he explained.
“Again, this is personal preference and personal opinion at this stage of my career. I know that I’m going to be defined by the amount of major championships that I hopefully will win from now until the end of my career. And that’s the most important thing for me.
“If that gives me the best chance to succeed at the major championships and feel as prepared as I possibly can be, then that’s what I would do.”
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