After enduring the expected moaning from Blue Blazer over my characterization of the Jim Vernon speech, Blazer and another USGA observer wondered why more attention was not paid to the potential political significance (or lack of) with this graph:
I also want to acknowledge the support shown by Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour. They repeatedly have acknowledged that the USGA and the R&A are the appropriate rule-making bodies for regulating golf equipment. They have publicly supported our research efforts, particularly our ball project—and have recognized that it is only through that research that we can define what options are available to regulate club and ball performance and can make educated assessments of the effects of those options. And they have given us full access to the data generated by their new ShotLink System for every shot at every tour event. As a result, we have a far clearer picture of how the game is being played by the best players. Actual data has replaced speculation and opinion because of ShotLink.
I will use this moment to register my usual complaint about the USGA touting ShotLink but not using it at the U.S. Open. Okay, moving right along...
Blue Blazer pointed out that the USGA in all likelihood went public on this new and somewhat bold stance with the PGA Tour's blessing.
After all, the two organizations may have no choice but to join at the hip should a manufacturer decide to file a lawsuit over equipment regulation.
So if a manufacturer decides to sue, here's how the Tour may become a co-defendant: if there is a rule change and the Tour just says "we play by USGA rules," the suing plaintiff may point out the Tour once banned U grooves on its own and suggest that the Tour could do whatever they want.
Keeping in mind the recent mention of PGA Tour-USGA meetings by David Fay (while being asked about private jet travel), there appears to be a coordinated defense of some kind. If they could include the Hootie and the hapless R&A, their position could be very strong.
Something else that the the Vernon speech may signal: the Executive Committee contingent clinging to the hope that the problems would go away, may now be in the minority.