Golf-Ridley: Augusta National supports golf ball rollback, 'we don't have a lot' of room


  • Golf
  • Thursday, 11 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 6, 2023 Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club Fred Ridley stands on the 1st tee during the ceremonial start on the first day of play REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Augusta National Golf Club supports the golf ball rollback spearheaded by the USGA and R&A and would prefer the Masters is never contested on a layout greater than 8,000 yards, chairman Fred Ridley said on Wednesday.

For almost 70 years the Masters had been played on a layout that was less than 7,000 yards but this week's edition, which begins on Thursday, has been extended to 7,550 yards and Ridley said that is inching closer to the course's limitations.

"I've said in the past that I hope we will not play the Masters at 8,000 yards. But that is likely to happen in the not too distant future under current standards," Ridley said during his annual pre-tournament Masters press conference.

"Accordingly, we support the decisions that have been made by the R&A and the USGA as they have addressed the impact of distance at all levels of the game."

Last December, the United States Golf Association and R&A announced in a joint statement that in an effort to reduce the effects of distance in the sport they would change how golf balls will be tested for conformity.

As such, the governing bodies said that starting in 2028 the game's longest hitters can expect a reduction of 13-15 yards in drive distance via testing conditions that will increase from the current standard of 120 mph swing speed to 125 mph.

While Augusta National has made holes longer to keep up with the power of today's big hitters and still has the ability to make other changes to protect the integrity of the famed course, Ridley conceded it does have limits.

"So I think we have some time to look and see what's going to happen. We have some more room, but we don't have a lot," said Ridley. "So I'm holding to that 8,000-yard red line, and I just hope we never get there."

For this year's Masters, the only change was at the par-five second hole named Pink Dogwood. The hole was already the longest on the course and this week will measure 585 yards after the tee box was positioned 10 yards further back and to the left.

'MONA LISA'

But while many holes have been lengthened over the years to protect the competitive integrity of the layout, Ridley said "with a hundred percent certainty" the picturesque par-three 12th would never be made longer during his tenure as chairman.

Golden Bell, which at 155 yards in the shortest hole on the course, is one of the world's most famous golf holes and its fickle winds, narrow green and looming water have thwarted many runs for the Masters title.

"That's almost like asking, you know, can we touch up the Mona Lisa a little bit," said Ridley.

"It is such an iconic hole that's had so many important moments in the Masters that I'm not sure that another 10 yards would really make a difference. Players are hitting short irons, but doesn't seem to matter, the hole is very difficult."

During the wide-ranging media availability Ridley also said the Masters would continue to do its part to ensure the game's best players gather for the year's first major regardless of where they compete.

This year the Masters extended a special invitation to Joaquin Niemann, one of 13 LIV Golf players in the field this week, and Ridley said Augusta National will continue to welcome players from any tour who are deserving.

"We're an invitational, and we can adjust as necessary," said Ridley.

"If we felt that there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV Tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to the Masters, that we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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