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The debate on distance has been a regular talking point in the golfing world for a number of years. However, only a few weeks into 2022, a number of legends in the sport have reiterated their thoughts on the gigantic distance that professionals are reaching in the modern era.
Only a few days ago, 18-time Major winner, Jack Nicklaus, repeated his suggestion of a rollback which will decrease the distance a ball can travel even under optimal conditions. This is something that he has spoken about since the 1970's!
It isn't just Nicklaus who has expressed his thoughts and fears though. Making a welcome appearance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Colin Montgomerie believes that the 150th Open at St Andrews in July could be the last to be staged on the historic Old Course, with the game's power hitters completely demolishing the layout.
Speaking to journalists after his practice round, the 58-year-old said "can you imagine what will happen if the weather is good and there’s little wind? It hardly bears thinking about. Bryson will stand up there and think six or seven holes on the course are driveable. The par-five fifth will be a joke, with a flick of a wedge for his second shot.
"As for the par-four 18th, remember all the excitement back in the day when Jack Nicklaus became the first man to drive the green? They were hitting it with three woods back when I finished second to Tiger in 2005 and this year they will be hitting it with irons. That would be really sad if that happens.
"Think about the first hole, where the burn in front of the green is 340 yards from the tee. For Bryson, that’s doable. Imagine him taking that on and driving the green? That would be the end. There’d be no way back from that."
It isn't just the power hitting that has changed the landscape of golf, with the influence of tournament purses playing a big factor in players schedules. Although the eight-time Order of Merit winner agrees with the alliance of the DP World and PGA Tour, the reluctance of the top players to participate in the Race to Dubai doesn't sit well for the 58-year-old.
“No one pays any attention to the Order of Merit [old habits and names die hard] until the last couple of weeks,” Montgomerie told journalists. “Collin Morikawa is a lovely fella and a fantastic player, Billy Horschel, too. But having them at one and two on the list last year just didn’t sit well with me.
"I’m sure they would agree that it wasn’t quite right. They hardly played in any ‘pure’ European Tour events. Look at Morikawa—he was back in the pack in Dubai last year and he was almost last of those who made the cut at the Scottish Open. Yet he won the Order of Merit. There’s something not quite right about that."
It's not just the Race to Dubai that Monty fears for “I also mourn the demise in stature of so many European events,” he says. “When I won the Scandinavian Masters in 1991, Seve was second, Woosie was third and Faldo was fourth. They turned up for nothing and played. That doesn’t happen anymore, which is a pity. All the national Opens don’t get the fields they deserve. So the end result is that the Race to Dubai doesn’t resonate like it used to.”
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
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