Rory McIlroy slams Distance Insights Project: ‘Huge waste of time and money’

Rory McIlroy will make his debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week.

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Rory McIlroy’s Wednesday press conference at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was wrapping up at around the 23-minute mark.

But he wasn’t ready for it to end.

“Can’t believe no one asked me an equipment question,” McIlroy said, with a cheeky smile. Told by the moderator they could open it back up, McIlroy said, “Sure, I’d be here all day for that.”

He sat back and folded his arms.

McIlroy was keen to share his thoughts on the USGA and R&A’s newly unveiled conclusions from their Distance Insights Project, which they released on Tuesday. The governing bodies sent proposals to equipment manufacturers on Monday that included revised standards for modernizing equipment testing protocols and a local rule that would limit maximum club length from 48 to 46 inches.

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Many players were asked for their opinions on the topic in the last 24 hours. McIlroy seemed puzzled by why reporters hadn’t broached the subject with him.

Asked for his take, McIlroy said, “Thank you,” and then he began.

“So I think the authorities, the R&A and USGA, 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 percent of the golfing community — 99.9 percent of the people who play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment,” he said. “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 insight report has been a huge waste of time and money, because that money that it costs 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 [USGA CEO] Mike Davis say something about we’re trying to protect the game for the next 100 years. This isn’t how you do it. This is so small and inconsequential compared to the 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 insight report.

“Thank you for asking the question.”

This debate won’t be going away anytime soon, either. Some believe golf’s technological advances are making some of the game’s most historic courses obsolete, while others argue that power is a skill, technology is simply evolving and courses could be set up differently to minimize distance. Another stance is bifurcation — that is, different equipment for pros and amateurs.

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David Maher, the CEO of Acushnet Co., which is the parent company to Titleist and FootJoy, released a statement following the governing bodies’ announcement on Tuesday. It read, in part: “Acushnet’s position is rooted in the belief that equipment innovation, while conforming to the rules of golf, has been a powerful force in the game and great contributor to its evolution and enjoyment at all levels of play. Equipment evolution, along with the increased athleticism of today’s competitive player, has helped to advance the game’s timeless and aspirational appeal.”

McIlroy added that he’d be “all for” bifurcation.

“I think maybe they said that in terms of local rules and maybe some sort of bifurcation, but we are such a tiny portion of golf,” he said, referring to elite pros. “Golf is way bigger than the professional game. Golf is like — we’re such a tiny part of it. It’s the other stuff that really matters, and that’s the stuff they need to concentrate on.”

The governing bodies plan to collect feedback and identify more specific ideas throughout the year.

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Josh Berhow Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at