CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND | Read into it what you will that the R&A requested 30 players bring their drivers to an on-site testing facility at the Open Championship.
Is it purely a matter of curiosity?
Or is the R&A looking for something specific as the distance discussion continues to percolate?
Might the reality be somewhere in the middle?
“It’s driven by us just trying to keep moving the championship forward and making it more complete and making sure that there is a service provided to ensure that the players are going out there with clubs that are conforming,” is how Martin Slumbers, the CEO of the R&A, explained it Wednesday.
When Rory McIlroy looked at the list of players whose drivers had been requested for testing, he noticed two things: His name was not on the list but he noted a preponderance of TaylorMade players on the list. Perhaps it was coincidence. Perhaps not.
“I understand why they’re testing equipment,” McIlroy said. “If there (are) some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then, obviously, guys shouldn’t be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much. I’d be very surprised if they found anything this week.”
Given the obvious attention on driving distances in recent months, Slumbers said the on-site testing at Carnoustie is an outgrowth of his comments a year ago that his organization is carefully studying the balance between talent and technology, particularly where drivers are concerned.
Slumbers said there is an ongoing dialogue about the results of a deep-dive study by the USGA and the R&A into distance, a study that showed an average increase of 3 yards across seven worldwide tours in 2016.
“I’m in listen mode,” Slumbers said.
The R&A tested drivers at an event in Japan earlier this year and Slumbers said there were no issues with the equipment or the players. He expects the same at Carnoustie where the effects on a club’s CT (which limits the so-called spring-like effect) are of particular interest.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have drivers going out there that are above the CT limit,” Slumbers said. “We have a very good relationship with our players and it’s a very collaborative relationship and we had absolutely no problems with the players coming and (they) were interested in what we’re doing.”