The virtual news conference was over. PGA Tour media official Doug Milne thanked Rory McIlroy for his time and was about to send him on his way at TPC Scottsdale.
“I can’t believe no one asked me an equipment question!” McIlroy said.
“Well, we can open back up the mics if you’d like?” Milne asked.
“Sure!” McIlroy said, settling into his chair and crossing his arms. “I’d be here all day for that.”
And that’s when he proceeded to excoriate the USGA and R&A for their announcement Tuesday that they’re proposing three rules changes, as well as exploring six other areas of interest, in an attempt to curb distance at the elite level. It’s the latest phase of the governing bodies’ now-year-old Distance Insights Report, which concluded that continuing distance gains were detrimental to the game’s future.
McIlroy, who is a paid endorser of TaylorMade equipment, called the report a “huge waste of time and a huge waste of money,” when it affects only “0.1%” of the game’s population.
“The authorities are looking at the game through such a tiny little lens, that what they’re trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1% of the golfing community,” McIlroy said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people who play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use.
“We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers. Honestly, I think this Distance Insights Report has been a huge waste of time and a huge waste of money, because that money that it’s cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game.
“I heard Mike Davis say something about we’re trying to protect the game for the next hundred years – this isn’t how you do it. This is so small and inconsequential compared to other things happening in the game. It’s the grassroots. It’s getting more people engaged in golf. That’s where they should be spending their money, not spending it on the Distance Insights Report.”
Then McIlroy, as he’s done before, said he’d be “all for” bifurcation, in which the professionals and amateurs would play by a different set of rules.
“If they want to try to make the game more difficult for us, or try to incorporate more skill to the game, yeah, I’d be all for that, because I think it only benefits the better player, which I feel like I am,” he said. “Maybe they said that in terms of local rules and maybe some sort of bifurcation, but we are such a tiny portion of golf. Golf is way bigger than the professional golf. We’re such a tiny portion of it. It’s the other stuff that really matters, and that’s the stuff they need to concentrate.”
In a TV interview afterward, McIlroy said that a distance project like this “reeks of self-importance.”
“Yes, they’re the gatekeepers of the game,” he said. “Their job is to make sure that the game thrives in a hundred years’ time, but this isn’t the way to do it.”