‘This is pathetic’: Phil Mickelson skewers USGA for proposed driver-length limit

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Phil Mickelson plays a shot with his driver during the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

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Are new regulations coming to the golf-equipment space? Phil Mickelson, for one, thinks so, and he’s getting his opinion out in front of it. 

Mickelson criticized the USGA on Twitter Friday ahead of his second round tee time at the BMW Championship, calling a proposed decision to limit the length of drivers to 46 inches “PATHETIC.” Yes, all caps. 

“Word is USGA is soon rolling back driver length to 46 inches,” Mickelson wrote. “This is PATHETIC.1st (sic) it promotes a shorter more violent swing (injury prone,) doesn’t allow for length of arc to create speed, and during our 1st golf boom in 40 years, our amateur gov body keeps trying to make it less fun” 

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The 46-inch driver cap is a proposed change the USGA and R&A announced that could take place as a result of their co-sanctioned Distance Insights Report. The announcement came in February as an update to the original report, and if we are to trust Mickelson, it sounds like the driver length maximum is getting pushed through.

The USGA did not immediately reply to GOLF.com’s request for comment.

Drivers (and all other non-putter clubs) are currently capped at 48 inches. Mickelson plays a 47.5-inch driver that, with his elongated swing, has helped him keep up with the distance gains across the rest of the professional golf scene. His tweet asserts that the science of maximizing distance with a shorter driver leads to shorter swings and therefore more stress on the body. 

Mickelson didn’t stop there, though. He continued in the replies to his tweet with numerous responses to his followers. Mickelson said that “logic isn’t their strong suit” when referring to the USGA and called them “amateurs” in another reply. When one follower said the governing body is “shooting itself in the foot,” Mickelson said, “Sadly so true.”

At least one former major champion agreed with Mickelson’s sentiments:

Driver length has been a hot topic this year. Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island using a 47.5-inch driver. Bryson DeChambeau created all kinds of headlines throughout the last year by testing out 48-inch drivers to add gains to the gains he’s already made in the chase of distance. Adam Scott used a 46-inch driver for a time last fall, and Dustin Johnson even tested a 47-inch driver in the run-up to his Masters title in November. 

Is shaft-length regulation on the way? It’s totally plausible, though the initial proposal called for a “research” period that runs through November 2, 2021. Whether or not a decision has been made remains to be seen, but if the governing bodies stick to their schedule, an announcement is still a few months away. 

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

A senior editor for GOLF.com, Zak joined the GOLF staff three weeks after college graduation. He is the utility infielder of the brand, spanning digital, print and video. His main duty is as a host for various GOLF.com video properties and its award-winning podcasts. When the Masters comes around, be sure to tune in to hear him and fellow staffers recount the most memorable tournaments in Augusta National history on A Pod Unlike Any Other.