'This is pathetic' – Phil Mickelson hits out as golf limits length of drivers

R&A and US Golf Association have been seeking to limit the likes of Bryson DeChambeau in their ceaseless quest for greater length off the tee - Getty Images
R&A and US Golf Association have been seeking to limit the likes of Bryson DeChambeau in their ceaseless quest for greater length off the tee - Getty Images

Golf’s governing bodies have dismissed the outspoken criticisms of Phil Mickelson and confirmed that drivers measuring more than 46 inches will essentially be banned in professional competition.

The R&A and US Golf Association announced the proposal for a new local rule in February as they sought to limit the likes of Bryson DeChambeau in their ceaseless quest for greater length off the tee.

At that time, DeChambeau was deciding whether to use a 48in driver at the Masters, although he stayed faithful to his 45.5in Cobra.

From Jan 1, he will no longer have the option, with the tours and majors confirming that they will follow the recommendations. In truth, very few pros employ a driver measuring more than 46in, although Mickelson used a 47.5in model when he won the USPGA in May.

Mickelson pre-empted the announcement on Twitter, saying: “Word is USGA is soon rolling back driver length to 46 inches.

“This is PATHETIC. 1st 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.”

Mickelson is incorrect with his last point as the R&A and USGA have stipulated that the local rule should only be invoked in professional or elite amateur tournaments. Now they have made their verdict, neither organisation will tackle Mickelson’s complaints full on.

Regard this as nothing more than the first shots across the bow before a decision is finally made – probably early next year – on rolling back the ball to limit distances and/or restricting the designs of clubs. That is when the lawyers will become involved and the pro game will be in full uproar.

“Admittedly, this is not the ‘answer’ to the overall distance debate/issue but rather a simple option for competitive events,” Mike Whan, the USGA chief executive said. “It’s important to note that it is not a ‘rule of golf,’ and as such, it is not mandated for the average, recreational golfer.”

Norman to become 'Amanda Staveley of golf'

By James Corrigan

Greg Norman is set to be unveiled as the face of the Saudi Golf League as the new venture’s bid to sign up some of the game’s biggest male superstars reaches its critical stage.

The Australian major winner has been connected with the would-be breakaway circuit since proposals emerged three years ago. Norman was the first to envisage a World Tour almost 30 years ago and was the obvious figure for the Saudi Arabians to consult. Yet his advisory role has become much larger and a seven-figure sum and equity share has apparently enticed the Great White Shark, in the words of one insider, “to be the Amanda Staveley of golf”.

Staveley, of course, is the British businesswoman who spearheaded the Saudi consortium’s takeover of Newcastle United that was last week approved by the Premier League.

Norman, 66, attended the Ryder Cup two weeks ago and was seen on the first tee alongside Phil Mickelson, a United States vice-captain who has been heavily linked with the SGL. Ostensibly, Norman was at Whistling Straits as an analyst for a radio station. “Greg is everywhere at the moment,” the insider said. “He was also at the FedEx Cup play-offs talking to top players. It will be intriguing to see if he is appointed CEO of Saudi golf or maybe of a PR firm that will front the venture.”

Norman’s management company would not confirm or deny the imminent engagement, with a spokesperson saying: “Greg has always been at the forefront of developments within professional golf and, as such, is always exploring potential opportunities.”

Since Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, declared in May that any player signing with the Saudis would face a lifetime ban, the SGL has sought a more subtle route. Last month, the Asian Tour announced a “historic” 10-year deal with the Saudi International, an event that was formerly on the European Tour’s schedule.

The Asian Tour is a recognised circuit and in past years both the PGA and European Tours would have given releases to their members to play in this sanctioned event. However, with the Saudis transparent plan of a 12 to 14-tournament global circuit, it must be doubted if either Monahan or Europe counterpart Keith Pelley will grant passes.

Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson are believed to be primed to appear at the Royal Greens in King Abdullah Economic City.

“The fun and games will really start when the release applications get turned down, but apparently, as of yet, nobody has applied,” the source said. “That event is in February, so the clock is ticking. The Saudis are not going away, have billions at their disposal, and the next six to 12 months will be very interesting.” indeed.”