Gary McCord thinks bifurcation is a bad idea for the PGA Tour: ‘I don’t know how you slow down without getting sued’

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With Bryson DeChambeau averaging 340.1 yards off the tee at the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge, the distance debate has been reenergized. In response, Colin Montgomerie recently told BBC Radio that he’s in favor of a Tour-only ball, which would imply bifurcation.

“I’m an advocate of what Jack Nicklaus proposes – a tournament ball for professionals, that goes only 80-85% as far,” Montgomerie said.

Former PGA Tour player and legendary broadcaster Gary McCord, however, sees things from a different perspective. On our recent Fully Equipped podcast, McCord was asked a hypothetical question; if he was named PGA Tour commissioner, how would he handle the equipment situation?

Below are some key points from McCord’s debate against bifurcation, which has a “boatload of consequences,” according to McCord.

Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for brevity and grammar.

Protect pension plans and don’t get sued

“[The PGA Tour is] a 501(c)(3) [organization]. That means that we can accumulate assets but we have to get rid of all the money and everything else…[The PGA Tour] has TPC [courses], pension plans that are worth zillions of dollars. We have all these assets. We would not like to be sued. I’m the commissioner; I don’t want to get in litigation. Because all they’re going to do is litigate.

“We’re going to bifurcate and we’re going to make our own rules for the PGA Tour, autonomous from the USGA and the R&A. OK? So the first thing I do is say, ‘OK guys, we’ve got to slow down the driver. That’s going to be our deal. Slow down the driver and the ball.’ Whoops. Whoops. Now, we’re going to get sued by people you don’t even know.”

Smaller drivers and losing advertisers

“Just for instance, slow down the ball. You could probably slow down the ball a little bit, but let’s just make the driver 200cc. They just did a test with 200cc drivers with the top-5 guys, I think it was at Charlotte last year. I think the average distance was… about 280 yards, which would be really nice for a driver. Right?…

“Now all the other golf courses, the old ones come back into play. Well, 60-70 percent of all advertising on the Tour… is golf club companies. So golf club companies are trying to sell the longest, fastest driver ever in the history of man that goes 40 yards farther, right? And a golf ball that goes farther, farther, farther, farther, that’s all you read.

“Well, now, we’re going to go slower, slower, slower, slower. They’re going to sue. They’re going to sue on every level. Do we want to be litigious, and I’m the commissioner? No! We haven’t done it yet. I don’t want to be litigious… we’re going to have to settle, settle, settle.

“I got to protect pension plans, I got to protect TPCs, I gotta protect all our income, all of our sponsors, everybody. That would be the worst thing in the world.”

What now?

“So how are we going to gear it up, because… amateur golf and professional golf, it’s not the same sport. I play with these guys; it’s not close. We kind of need our own local rules, and we use them a lot. We do use local rules on the Tour. So we do bifurcate, in essence.

“But the fact of slowing down? I don’t know how you slow down without getting sued, and without losing all your sponsors for television. I really don’t. You’d have to go corral a bunch more sponsors. Try that right now in the Covid-19 era. Try to get some new sponsors with extra money to get on television. As the commissioner, wow. I wouldn’t bifurcate, and I’d just play the game as we have it right now until we figure something out.”

Will it make the game better for the viewer?

“If I’m the longest at 340 yards, like Bryson, then I’m going to be the longest at 290. I’m still going to be the longest…all that’s going to do is bring back these old golf courses… instead, Bryson’s going to be out there with a driver and 6-iron, and everyone else is going to be hitting a 4-iron.

“It’s all relative, and that’s how we’re gearing all of the [strokes gained] stats now. But would that make the game better to the viewer? Um… I really like to watch these guys bomb it and take bunkers out at 320. It’s kind of interesting.

“This Tour now, if you look at the top-10 guys, go find a guy that doinks it down the fairway. I dare you. You can’t do it. I tell these kids now… I say, ‘You learn to fly it 320, because that’s where the farthest bunker is. If you can hit it over that bunker and you can take the crookedness out of the dogleg, you’re gong to beat these other guys in the longterm. You can’t if you’re hitting a 3-wood short and hitting a 5-iron and they’re hitting a sand wedge. You’re gonna get killed.’

“…that’s where it is right now. And Bryson, I do believe is going to ignite a fire – a hellfire – of getting bigger and stronger and everything else.”

Don’t forget to tune into part 1 of our interview with Gary McCord below!

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Andrew Tursky

Golf.com Photographer

Andrew Tursky is the Senior Equipment Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com.