GGP In the States it’s mostly referred to as the
“British Open,” and if it ever went to Port-
marnock wouldn’t it be difficult, for political
reasons, to call it the “British Open?”
PD Well, I suppose that’s true, yes. To be honest,
we do call it the Open Championship, but if
you look at the old footage back in the 20s
and 30s it was called the British Open even
then by a lot of R&A captains.
GGP What has your research shown on the square
grooves issue and what are your expectations
for the effect the new rule on grooves will have?
PD Our research show, and this is very much
a joint effort with the USGA, without any
doubt that modern grooves in iron clubs
were capable of spinning the ball from the
rough as much as spinning the ball from the
fair way. So the controllability from the rough
or the lack of it was not causing a problem
for players. They could spin a ball, as long
as the lie was reasonable, out of the rough,
to the same extent as they could out of the
fair way. We also found that the correlation
— and this is what started this — between
driving accuracy and success on Tour had
virtually disappeared. Straight hitters were
not the most successful players, and if you
went back 20 or more years, they were. And
that put us onto this spin thing.
GGP There are some who think, by the way, that
you have effectively, either intentionally or
unintentionally, shortened the ball. That by
changing the grooves it’s causing the players
to hit a softer golf ball.
PD We have seen some balls recently that do
help restore some fraction of the spin from
the rough, but they’re not shorter golf balls.
We haven’t yet seen the full reaction from
the ball manufacturers to this so my answer
to that question is premature. That wasn’t
the intention. We never thought that the ball
would be shorter.
“Sometimes these people think we’re
stupid. It’s an amazing thing to assume
that we had mucked up to that degree.
It’s just staggering.”
GGP How long will it take before you have enough
data to draw some conclusions on this matter
PD I don’t think we ever will. The reason I say
that is course setups will be changed by the
Tours. I don’t think putting the pins three
paces from the edge to the degree that it’s
been going on — as soon as they start to
move them back to where they used to be —
we’ll never have a control experiment to say
this, that or the other. But I do think we’ll
be able to see some driving accuracy correlation. But I’ll bet it’s inconclusive. I’ll be
much more impressed by what I hear from
the players than what I see from the statistics.
And the thick rough you often get at a U.S.
Open course is something we don’t see at
the Open Championship. So I think it will
have more affect on U.S. courses and inland
courses on the European Tour.
GGP So you wanted to make the big boys have to
pay more attention off the tee?
PD Our concern has been to try to restore the
importance of driving accuracy to success
in the game. We feel that the new grooves
that will spin the ball from the fair way just as
much as the existing ones but not from the
rough will put more pressure on players to hit
more fairways. Whether that has an effect on
driving distance or not remains to be seen.
GGP Playing conditions are very different at Open
Championships than they are at U.S. Opens.
Do you think the new grooves restrictions will
affect one of those championships more than
PD I think it’s more likely to affect a U.S. Open.
I don’t think in the Open Championship
we’ve seen a grooves problem, particularly
because often the rough at the Open (
Championship) is very thin or it’s hack out. And
neither of that is really a grooves problem.
GGP The Asian Amateur late last year, with the
Masters Invitation and status for the winner
in the Open Championship qualifying pro-
cess, was a rare experiment. Your take?
PD It was the first joint venture, if you like,
between two major championship organizers (R&A and Masters) to try to develop
the game and grow the game. The concept
was that by creating an elite amateur event
in Asia, it would raise aspirations within the
amateur game both within Asia and within
countries. The carrot issue — offering a
place in the Masters — was an astonishing
thing for Augusta to have done and shows its
real commitment. We (the R&A) went so far
as to offer places in the final qualifying for
the winner and the runner-up.
much by Augusta, but by people in South
America. The R&A has been very active
down there for quite some years now. This
may have raised the bar for the way amateur
events are organized going forth because this
was pretty special apparently and the players
felt very special by being there.
GGP Can we look for a day when the Asian Ama-
teur winner will qualify all the way through
into the Open Championship field proper
without any further qualifying?
PD I wouldn’t be in the least surprised. I can’t
bind future championship committees, but
you know the European Amateur champion
now gets into the Open Championship. And
if the Asian Amateur championship goes the
same way, then I’m sure future championship
committees will give that strong consideration. That’s as close to a yes as I can give you.
GGP Can we expect in South America, especially
with the Olympics going to Rio de Janeiro
in 2016, for a similar amateur event taking
place on that continent with collaboration
between the R&A and the Masters?
PD I have been approached about this, not so
GGP Golf course architect Tom Doak has been
very outspoken about the concept of “
sustainable golf,” and he holds up Scotland as
a model for the concept. As a Scot, can you
talk about the need for sustainable golf and
do we need to look back in order to look to
PD We’ve been busy working with this now, to be
honest, for the last eight years. I remember e