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PGA Tour looking to control distance

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would like to see the United States Golf Association become more proactive in controlling the distance today's technologically superior golf balls travel.

Finchem, making an appearance Friday at the Royal Caribbean Classic, the first full-field event on the Champions Tour, reiterated concerns he has over how far today's players are driving the ball. Forty players averaged more than 300 yards driving at the Phoenix Open last month. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson have already driven par 4s this year with their new Titleist 983K Drivers and Pro V1x balls.

Els set a PGA Tour record with his 31 under par total in the season-opening Mercedes Championship, topping the previous record under par by three shots.

"At some point, nobody knows where, one of two things could happen," Finchem said. "The average player feels divorced and doesn't appreciate the game at this level, and there is such a gap (between pros and recreational players) it's not particularly relevant. We are not there yet. The second problem is if everybody's driving par 4s, it's not particularly interesting to watch. We are not there yet either.

"I think this can be handled by the USGA, and I think we're moving in that direction, but we need to be more aggressive about it."

Finchem is in favor of capping the distance balls can travel rather than roll distances back, and he is on record saying that if the USGA and Royal & Ancient governing bodies can't resolve the problem, the PGA Tour would consider becoming involved in creating equipment rules for its tours. He prefers the PGA Tour not get involved in equipment rule making, which would create two different rules for pros and amateurs, but it remains an option.

Although Finchem has no problem with players hitting the ball farther because they're generating more club head speed, he's concerned about the distance advantages created by ball technology.

"The USGA has done a good job on the club head," Finchem said. "But we are not where we need to be as a sport in respect to the ball, and we are anxious because we are continuing to see some distance enhancements in the real world."

The PGA Tour has no plans to get involved, but Finchem's staff will monitor equipment development and how it's affecting the game.

"Short term, you say, `Gee, golf is doing great, the PGA Tour is doing great, it can't be a problem.' I understand, but I think prudence would argue for looking at things in the long term."


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