Last week PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, coming off an extended leave of absence due to anxiety issues, issued a wide-ranging statement on a variety of issues. The one that piqued my attention was the Tour’s current position, following the recent Player Advisory Council (PAC) meeting, on the proposed Modified Local Rule by the USGA and R&A on rolling back the ball for elite players.
The statement in part read: “Following a discussion on the topic at a recent PAC meeting, we have notified the USGA and The R&A that while the PGA TOUR is committed to collaborating with them – and all industry partners – to arrive at a solution that will best serve our players, our fans and the game at all levels, we are not able to support the MLR as proposed.”
This position is not surprising. First, the majority of Tour players are NOT in favor of this local rule aimed at them and elite amateurs. Most of the Tour players have money deals with the major ball manufacturers and so naturally they’re not going to bite the hands that feeds (er pays) them. Plus their agents, whose job is to maximize their client’s wallets, are also adamantly opposed to any rollback.
After Monahan was widely roasted by his players for keeping them in the dark on the proposed “merger of sorts” between the PGA Tour and LIV Tour, he had to stand with the PAC on its opposition to the proposed ball rule—set to be implemented in 2026 (!). And this week, it was announced Tiger Woods would join the Tour’s policy board making players, not independent directors, the majority of its make-up. Players are now in control on decisions re major issues.
Second, the PGA Tour’s primary mission is to advance its Tour, its players and sponsors. Like the television and streaming networks, the Tour is in the entertainment business, committed to providing a popular product to sell and to market. In its thinking, players ‘going low’ on courses that are now too short, makes for more birdies and eagles—creating more cheers from the fans and viewers. That’s also why the PGA Tour tournaments almost invariably invokes the “lift, clean and place” local rule when dealing with soggy courses. They want scores to be lower.
Unlike the USGA and R&A, the PGA Tour is not a rule-making body in charge of, in the famous words of the late USGA President Sandy Tatum, “maintaining the essential challenge of the game.”
The USGA and R&A have kicked this can down the road too long and in spite of the overwhelming evidence that continued long distance effects of technology (mainly, the ball) is not sustainable. “Doing nothing is not an option,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan.
The one positive aspect in Monahan’s statement is his use of the phrase “as proposed.” It could be interpreted that the Tour might support some sort of compromise or tweaking of the Modified Local Rule (MLR)
Yet, it’s hard to conceive how the MLR could be altered to serve the interests of both parties but one never knows.
But even if the Tour and possibly the PGA of America, yet to release its official position, oppose the MLR, three of the four majors will proceed with the new rule in 2026: the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
As in the case of the rule banning anchoring of a long putter against the chest, the players will eventually get over the adoption of the rolled back ball. And the wisdom of Sandy Tatum will prevail.
Images courtesy of the PGA Tour and USGA