Jon Rahm wants golf’s distance row resolved to allow chance for ‘unity’
World No 2 Jon Rahm has pleaded for “unity” in the PGA Tour locker rooms as the professional game stands on the brink of another great divide concerning the distance debate.
Rahm has already stated his opposition to the recently-announced plan of the R&A and US Golf Association to introduce a “shorter” ball that will travel 15 to 20 yards less when hit by the big-hitters, joining not only the equipment-makers in his objections but also several other top names such as Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
And this apparently collective stance in the elite ranks against the intentions of the governing bodies bolstered the conviction on Tour that the mooted “Model Local Rule” due to be implemented in 2026 would never see the light of day.
However, on Wednesday, Rory McIlroy threw a spanner – if not an entire equipment truck – in the works when declaring that he fully supported the proposal, arguing that it would arrest golf’s “bomb and gouge” trend and restore the “integrity” of a sport in danger of becoming too one-dimensional.
McIlroy even went as far to indicate that if the Tour did decide against adopting the MLR for its events – and it would not be compulsory – then he might employ the rolled-back ball regardless to afford himself the best possible chance of at the majors. Rahm doubts that particular scenario ever coming to pass but he is alarmed by the possibility.
“I find it hard to believe as well that the majors would go completely against what the professional tours decide to do,” he said. “And if that were to happen, that would set a huge divide in the game that is just not good for anybody. So whatever they choose, hopefully it’s unanimous and then we’ll deal with it… I do think we need to do everything we can to stay united.”
Rahm makes an understandable point considering the turmoil the male game has faced – and is still facing – since the LIV Golf rebel league smashed its way onto the once serene landscape.
The opening of another front of dissension appears to be the last thing the game needs. But as McIlroy has put his influential name alongside those of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in favour of limiting the power surge, that now looks almost inevitable. Which, in some respects, is jarring, as there is much common ground between the camps.
“I think Rory, to an extent, is right – the change would benefit the better player, especially the longer players,” Rahm told Telegraph Sport. “We kind of talked about it, and I would be hitting it 10 to 15 yards shorter, which would put me where I was in 2019, 2020 – and my golf game was pretty good back then as well. So I don’t think it would be a big difference.”
And in that respect, the 28-year-old doubts the expense is worth it and believes the finance would be better spent on the grassroots. “I don’t think it’s fair to tell all these brands they have to go through the research and the development of a new ball just for a few of us,” Rahm said.
“You’re making them spend millions and putting them through the USGA testing to maybe fail. I just don’t think the PGA Tour and the manufacturers are going to put up with that.
“I think the USGA could be investing their time in how to improve the game at a lower level, how to get more amateurs and juniors to play, not on trying to make it more difficult for us.”
Rahm was talking here at Austin Country Club on the second day of the Dell WGC Match Play when he kept himself in the hunt to qualify for the weekend knockout stages by seeing off American Keith Mitchell 4&3.
Rahm knows if he accounts for Billy Horschel in his final round-robin pool match on Friday then he will at least be guaranteed a play-off for the top spot required to make the last 16 after Horschel saw off Rahm’s first-day conqueror Rickie Fowler 3&2.