Golf ball rollback: PGA Tour refuses to support R&A and USGA proposals

Rollback debate rolls on as Monahan shuts door on distance-limiting balls.

The PGA Tour has finally announced feedback following a ‘comprehensive analysis’ of distance on the PGA Tour and concluded that “doing nothing” is actually a pretty good option.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan notified the R&A and USGA of its decision not to support the proposed golf ball rollback that would curb hitting distances by around 15 yards.

In a memo to members, Monahan said: “Although there has been some level of support for limiting future increases, there is widespread and significant belief the proposed Modified Local Rule is not warranted and is not in the best interest of the game.”

Jay Monahan has announced huge purse increases on the PGA Tour to counter the LIV Golf threat.

The timing of the announcement is perhaps more telling than the PGA’s stance on the golf ball rollback itself.

It comes just three days after 5’7″ Brian Harman lifted the Claret Jug at a waterlogged Royal Liverpool, delivering a controlled and dominant 6-shot victory that left three of the biggest hitters in the game wishing they could have traded some of their distance for Harman’s control.

By no means is Harman short at 294 yards, but there are 143 players on the PGA Tour ranked higher for distance, including McIlroy (1st – 326 yards), Young (3rd – 317 yards), and Rahm (10th – 313 yards), who could only close the gap to three, momentarily.

Harmon had won golf’s biggest prize with his putter, perhaps sending a timely reminder that rolling back the ball by 15 yards will not necessarily level any playing fields.

Following his win Harman said: “Some people say it’ll help the guys that hit it shorter – I don’t know how it helps. There really hasn’t been any change or golf course design that’s helped a shorter hitter over the last 20 years.”

Brian Harman is the Champion Golfer of 2023.

Another hurdle for golfing authorities

Just as the dust started to settle following the shock PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and LIV Golf merger, this latest announcement will prove a further frustration to a sport looking to portray a unified image as it begins its next chapter.

Morahan insists that the PGA Tour remains committed to collaborating with the R&A, USGA, and all industry partners to arrive at a solution that will best serve the players and fans of the game at all levels.

However, the current rollback proposals clearly do not feature within the PGA Tour’s long-term vision.

The lack of detail behind this decision however is likely to leave the R&A and USGA wondering how closely aligned the Tours are on what ‘doing right by the sport’ actually looks like.

R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said: “Our role, indeed our responsibility, is to do what is right for the sport.

“We’ve put forward targeted and proportionate measures to address a complex issue, which we believe is key to preserving the inherent challenge of golf and ensuring that it has a sustainable future.

Doing nothing is not an option.”

Martin Slumbers.

The proposals haven’t exactly been met with enthusiasm from the pros either, with Bryson DeChambaeu describing them as “the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do to the game of golf.”

DeChambeau and others including John Rahm and Webb Simpson have questioned why there is not more emphasis on golf course design to increase the challenge, with narrower fairways and more doglegs, rough, and hazards.

Needless to say that manufacturers are hardly thrilled at the prospect, not least because of the millions of dollars they will need to spend on R&D to design and manufacture new conforming balls.

Who has the final say?

The proposals sit under a Modified Local Rule, meaning individual Tours will be able to decide, once approved, whether they adopt it or not. The R&A and USGA have already confirmed they will for the tournaments under their jurisdiction, including The Open and US Open, coming into effect from January 2026.

It seems, at least for now, that the PGA has shut the door on the golf ball rollback proposal. That being said, surprise U-turns on significant decisions are not uncommon at the PGA, so watch this space!

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