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Phil Mickelson: Rolling back the ball would unfairly punish longest hitters



In the midst of a generally diplomatic take on the USGA’s distance report, Phil Mickelson made an interesting point during a call-in with the Dan Patrick Show.

Mickelson said he agreed with Patrick about the idea that classic courses becoming obsolete due to current driving distances is troubling. He also seemed to suggest that 2003 USGA limitations on COR and MOI have effectively halted the year-over-year equipment-related distance creep and that recent increases are more the product of player fitness.

However, Lefty made an interesting point regarding a proposal that’s being floated in some corners: a golf ball that flies 10 or 20 percent shorter.

“If you reduce it [the ball] 10 percent…the guy who hits it 280 yards, he’s going to lose 28 yards. The guy who hits it 330, he’s going to lose 33 yards, so you’re going to punish him more.”

The take is an interesting one: Longer hitters will suffer proportionally more. This is a counter for those who say, “the longest hitters will still be the longest if we roll back the ball.” Yes, but if Mickelson is accurate, they won’t be proportionally as long. That doesn’t seem fair.

For Mickelson’s part, he concluded with, “I don’t really have a strong opinion, because I know of have feelings both ways on it [the distance debate].”

Check out the left-hander’s full talk with Patrick below (h/t Geoff Shackelford).

What do you think about Mickelson’s remarks, GolfWRXers?

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  1. Gally

    Mar 9, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    There are 3 types of people in the world……those that are good at math, and those that aren’t so good at math.

  2. matt_bear

    Mar 9, 2018 at 11:43 am

    In order to take Phil’s comment seriously, we would first have to answer if the long hitters benefited disproportionately on the “way up” with the technology improvements.

  3. ski_co

    Mar 9, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Stop the changes now and leave everything as it is.

  4. Judge Smeills

    Mar 9, 2018 at 9:55 am

    by the same logic the shorter hitter from 10 years ago got disproportionately affected by the equipment improvements

  5. Old Redtop

    Mar 9, 2018 at 9:45 am

    The comments here demonstrate perfectly the problem with changing the ball. Too many unintended consequences for the overall enjoyment of the game. The fix is easy… set the courses up for the pro and elite amateur tournaments so that drives over a certain distance don’t run out. Manage the distance by course setup. Stop the 30+ yard roll outs after the ball carries 300 yards. Raise the grass height in the fairways at 300+ and the rough. Problem solved.

    This can be done on all holes or selected holes. If you still leave a couple of “bomber” holes, then the equipment manufactures can still sell “distance” to the rest of us… 🙂

  6. youraway

    Mar 9, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Let’s see 10% of 300 equals 30 and 10% of 250 equals 25. So we’re talking about 5 yards difference. Wow!

    • kevin

      Mar 9, 2018 at 9:27 am

      its actually less than that because the gap between the longest hitter and shortest is less than 50 yards.

      based on 2017 data, Rory avg drive was 317. Spencer Levin was 175th at 278yds. Thats 39 yds.

      10% rollback seems a bit drastic. if anything i say we increase the spin of the ball and limit the size of the drivers on tour to 400cc. let the big hitters swing away but decrease the forgiveness in their equipment. separate the best ball strikers from the average on Tour.

      • Jae

        Mar 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm

        Have you ever seen a tour players clubs after 100 or more rounds? They don’t miss the sweetspot, like ever.

  7. Ro

    Mar 9, 2018 at 3:00 am

    Lets just go back to rubber wound and persimmon.

    • Ro

      Mar 9, 2018 at 3:02 am

      Oh oo oh and also get rid of graphite shafts. Steel only. And no, they also have to be at least 120 gram shafts. No more of this light weight stuff

    • The Taint

      Mar 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Ro, these rules would not apply to hackers like you. I know you want to feel like a pro when you swing your tour issue clubs, but get over it. Tour players can hit 400cc drivers. Take a week off and find another game.

  8. RG

    Mar 9, 2018 at 1:18 am

    Watched the opening round at Copperhead today. One player at 4 under, 1 under is top 8. More guys at 4 to 5 over than there are under. Tell me again how to much distance is hurting the game cause it seems like it ain’t helping these guys to much.

  9. Jerry Chang

    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    I spoke to Tiger this morning about rolling back the ball. Tiger is in favor of it and truly believes it will help the game. He thinks that the manufacturers should make balls spin more. Adding spin to balls will penalize the longest hitters and may actually help amateurs. He and Jack have talked recently and are in agreement that this will bring back the lost art of shotmaking. Peace out.

    • Ro

      Mar 9, 2018 at 2:58 am

      OK. I’ll make the ball spin more.
      But I’ll also talk to the USGA and R&A, and advise them to roll back the grooves on irons and wedges so they must not be any shape other than a V, at a specific angle to impart the minimal amount of spin possible without jagged edges and set at a specific minimal depth, and also to take away surface milling and roughness as well; the surface of those clubs must be uniformly smooth so that the ball wouldn’t be grabbed by such things.

      • Rich Douglas

        Mar 10, 2018 at 4:58 pm

        U Grooves only matter out of the rough, where they wick away moisture from the clubface. They don’t really matter from the fairway.

  10. H. Vardon

    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    This is a mathematical misnomer… The 330 hitter giving up 33 vs 280 hitter giving up 28 is equivalent in % terms, and the 330 hitter is still 10% (or more) longer, net net….


  11. 8thehardway

    Mar 8, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    So the average golfer’s going to drop to 185 off the tee? Yeah, that’ll grow the game.

  12. DeezNutz

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Leave the game alone, I also think this would really hurt the LPGA and growing there game should be a big priority in golf.

  13. JThunder

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    The “easy answer” of “rolling back the ball” leaves a specific unanswered question; HOW will it be “rolled back”? Under what launch conditions, based on what swing speeds, etc – how will it achieve it’s goal? Will it fly a percentage shorter, or have a built-in distance limit? Who will lose the most yards or percentage based on their swing speed and current driving distance?

    In other words – the eternal question – exactly how does one put a genie back in the bottle?

    Also, what exactly makes a golf course “obsolete”? This must refer only to the top few hundred golfers in the world – ie, only in the context of Tour Events – since the average handicap isn’t going down and average driving distance among recreational golfers isn’t anywhere near “dangerous”.

    When it comes to Tour Events – regardless of par or the winning total – doesn’t the player who wins have to score at least one stroke less than everyone else? If there a golf course that doesn’t allow that to happen? Or is this entirely and only about Almighty Par and our subservience to it’s protection?

    Good luck keeping spectators interested and drawing people to the game with Tour Pros driving the ball 250. y. a. w. n.

  14. Nack Jicklaus

    Mar 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I think the shorter hitters get punished more. The longest hitters will still be able to easily hit par 5’s in two but the shorter hitters will really have no chance now.

    • DeezNutz

      Mar 8, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Golf is fine. Everyone is using the equipment and most people are working out.
      What few course are being obsolete last i checked scores were pretty high at pebble, oakmont with USGA set up.

  15. Al Czervik

    Mar 8, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    I am assuming that Phil did not graduate ASU with a math degree. If you take the above example the long hitter hits it 18% further then the short hitter and magically 18% further with the 10% ball reduction.

    • Al Czervik

      Mar 8, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      I take it back. It is not Phil’s issue. The problem is with the writer of the article who incorrectly uses the word “proportional.”

    • ToeJam

      Mar 10, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      Hey Big Al, I take it that you did not graduate high school. Please stop playing golf and find another forum that makes you feel smart.

  16. Skip

    Mar 8, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    WTF. So, the 330yd Bomber goes to 297yds and the 280 guy goes to 252. Any you’re saying the Short hitter is better off, or punished less? OK.

    • DeezNutz

      Mar 8, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      nah hes saying 252 on a 7500 yard course you’re in trouble 297 you’re fine.

    • ogo

      Mar 8, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      Mickelson doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The effect of limiting the ball is not a 10% distance decrease for all distances. The big hitters will lose 10% but the shorter hitters will lose less proportionately.
      The 300 yard drive may lose 10% down to 280 yards. The shorter 280 yard drive may only lose 5% down to 266 yards. A golf ball can be designed to do that.

      • JThunder

        Mar 9, 2018 at 1:48 am

        It would depend on who designs the ball and how they design it. If there is to be one standard “Tour Ball”, this could be achieved, but it would still differ by launch conditions, etc. That doesn’t necessarily seem fair – should there be a “Tour Shaft” and “Tour Head” as well? If pros can no longer choose their ball to suit their game, doesn’t that unfairly penalize those whose game doesn’t “happen” to fit the “Tour Ball” specs?

        And if it doesn’t change anything in terms of big hitters vs short hitters, then this is all and only about the golf courses? So what club a few dozen guys hit into the odd par 5 every few weeks leads to THIS? I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an extremely slow knee-jerk reaction, but this would be it.

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19th Hole

Greg Norman is appearing in ESPN’s Body Issue, like he told us he would



As he said he’d consider doing when asked by Michael Williams on our 19th Hole podcast, Greg Norman is set to appear in the ESPN “Body Issue.”

The 63-year-old will follows in the footsteps of Gary Player, as well as number of other golfers, including Camilo Villegas, Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Sandra Gal, Suzann Pettersen, and Christina Kim.

Here’s what Norman told our Michael Williams when asked about appearing in the annual corporeal showcase

“Would I do it? Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir..And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Well, folks, he’s doing it. Never change, Shark, never change.

Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear in this year’s issue.


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19th Hole

WATCH: Phil Mickelson gets the Happy Gilmore meme treatment



Maybe it’s too soon to find humor in the Phil Mickelson’s behavior on the 13th green during Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Open.

That said, the initial image of one of the game’s greats running after his golf ball and playing hockey in the manner of a child at mini golf was both shocking and humorous to most observers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the meme producers at SPUN have put together this riff on Mickelson’s putting and post-round remarks, leveraging footage from the great golf masterpiece “Happy Gilmore.”

Check it out.


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19th Hole

Hot takes on Phil Mickelson’s Saturday antics continue to fly



Yesterday, Phil Mickelson played a bit of field hockey on Shinnecock’s 13th green that continues to be the talk of the golf world… Mickelson didn’t do much to quiet the murmurs with his refusal to talk to the media following his final round and his celebratory antics after a made putt at that hole, Sunday.

Regarding the left-hander’s violation of Rule 14-5, we have a thread that’s 18 pages long and 516 replies deep at the time of this writing. It spans the full spectrum of opinions, from staunch support for Phil to outright condemnation.

A poll among golf WRXers saw 41 percent of responders say Mickelson should have been disqualified. 49 percent said he shouldn’t have. 9 percent said Mickelson should withdraw.

MtlJeff had this take

“Imagine if a young player did it. We’d be ready to euthanize all millennials for their horrible tantrums.”

Ssfranny said

“I have to kinda think Phil just gave a big middle finger to the USGA and pin placements.”


“Frustrated as he may have been, he’s no better than the field. Everyone has to play the same course. I know Phil’s a fan-favorite, but that was wrong and disgraceful.”

Nessism said

“Pure frustration. I feel sorry for him. A momentary lapse of awareness will now cost him endless scritany for years to come.”

Golfgirlrobin quickly perceived what would be Mickelson’s eventual explanation

“Or maybe brilliant. Ball goes all the way down the green into the fairway and taking the penalty might actually have ended up being the better play.”

HolyMoses said

“Phil said he hit the moving ball intentionally so it wouldn’t get behind the bunker again. If he’s that defiant, he should be DQ’d. That’s cheating, plain and simple.”

Moving from WRXers’ takes to a few from other realms.

On Twitter, Lee Westwood played the devil’s advocate with this slippery slope (appropriately) argument.

“Here’s a scenario…Thoughts everyone??? here you go….. over the back on 15 at Augusta. Chip it too hard, run over before it gets to the water and knock it on the green so you don’t have to hit it again or go the drop zone!”

Writer Alan Bastable introduced the specter of Rule 1-2.

“Meanwhile, just two years after the DJ rules fiasco at Oakmont, the USGA blue coats were left to explain to the world why Mickelson hadn’t been disqualified for such an egregious breach of the rules. Indeed, under Rule 1-2, the Committee could have deemed that Mickelson’s actions gave him “a significant advantage,” and therefore warranted a DQ. “I would have lobbied for disqualification,” former USGA executive director David Fay said on the Fox telecast.”

The portion of Rule 1-2 Bastable referenced states.

“A player is deemed to have committed a serious breach of Rule 1-2 if the Committee considers that the action taken in breach of this Rule has allowed him or another player to gain a significant advantage or has placed another player, other than his partner, at a significant disadvantage.”

Golf Channel’s Randall Mell discussed Mickelson’s communication with Mike Davis late Saturday after some scribes floated the idea that the golfer ought to be disqualified.

“Phil really did want to understand how the rule operates,” Davis said. “Frankly, as he said to me, `Mike, I don’t want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified.’” Davis said he assured Mickelson that Rule 14-5 was correctly applied, and that a two-stroke penalty is all that was required.”

With respect to the claims that Mickelson ought to withdraw, ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote this.

“There was a problem with Lefty’s story — a fairly big one. His playing partner, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, said he told Mickelson, “Sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at that. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.” Johnston also had this to say of his exchange with Mickelson: “He said, ‘I don’t know what that is. I don’t know what score that is or what happens now.’ And he started speaking to the rules official. It was one strange moment.”

“The standard-bearer with the group, Connor Buff, a 19-year-old from Smithtown and a student at the University at Albany, said he heard Mickelson tell the rules official, “Whatever I get, I get. Just let me know what it is.”

In other words, according to O’Connor Mickelson was both attempting to gain advantage and, for what it’s worth, lying about his thoughts during the field hockey moment.

And of course, Global Golf Post’s John Hopkins.

Amy Mickelson told Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols

“He has been pretty under fire,” she said. “A lot of people have been pretty rough. … . It’s not like we’re in his shoes and understand what he has gone through. You and me, we are looking at it from the outside, sitting in the press room or family dining. … They’re playing sports for a living, but still in the moment it’s a very heavy week, an intense week. A lot happens over the course of 24 hours every day.

Golf Digest’s Joel Beall wrote this about Mickelson’s mock celebration at the 13th, Sunday. He could just as well have written it Mickelson’s explanation and the whole ordeal

“His critics would call it the act of a charlatan. His fans would say he was being an entertainer. Part of the Phil Mickelson Experience is not knowing which is right.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members? Is there more to be said about the matter? Or, with the U.S. Open wrapped up, should be draw the curtain on all this as well? Do any other takes merit mention?

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