The 141st Open champion will kiss the Claret Jug this afternoon but if the R&A don't change the rules, they can kiss the game goodbye. This was the view of three-times Open champion and winner of nine majors, Gary Player.
Bifurcation is what he is calling for. It sounds like an acidy stomach condition caused by too many R&A G&Ts, but what Player wants the rule makers to rubber-stamp (along with the United States Golf Association, which governs the game across the Atlantic) is one set of rules for the elite tour professionals and another for amateur weekend hackers. "Who are the important people?" Player said. "Not the professionals. It's the man in the street, the amateur that keeps the game going. The R&A say the game is the same for everybody. It's not.
"There are two separate games. You go and watch Tiger Woods and tell me if you hit it like that."
Player has a masterplan. Ban the belly putter and rein in the ball. But only for the pros. "Let the amateurs have all the technology to help them have fun," he said. "But pro golf needs to have it reined back. We are going to have to cut the ball back by 50 yards. The R&A are reluctant to do so but I will take a massive bet that they will do it some time."
The tipping point might be if a Canadian pro who Player has seen ever tees it up in front of the R&A Rules Committee at St Andrews. "There's a guy in Canada who is driving the ball over 400 yards," Player said. "That means he will stand on the 1st tee of the Old Course and carry the ball on to the green. This wonderful course will be obsolete." And others like it, such as the links here. Player said he has spoken to 50 people at Lytham and most of them were not enjoying the Open because they wanted to see Woods, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood and Ernie Els whack drivers. They're mostly thumping irons. And it's all because the ball flies too far.
Next in line for a pasting from Player were those pesky broomhandle putters, like the one wielded by Adam Scott.
"Coming down the last few holes when guys are nervy and a bit yippy, they take the long putter and anchor it against their body and there's no more shaking," Player said.
"Ernie Els said that it's really cheating but it's a rule, so people use it."
That should give a few R&A blazers a spot of indigestion over their Sunday roast beef.
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