A trusted Augusta insider offered this on the abrupt departure of Hootie Johnson and subsequent Billy Payne appointment:
There is a political power struggle, with two distinct factions. Hootie is on your side about equipment and Billy Payne is as well. There is a younger more corporate group that has a different view of things. The membership knew there was a new Chairman coming but no one was sure who it would be. Hootie stepped aside so that the dwindling majority could put Billy in while they still had the power, and as you and others have picked up on, Billy is just 58 years old. He's going to be there for a while.
Hootie has tried to put pressure on the USGA to do something about the ball, and is frustrated nothing has happened, but feels he can't effect change on this issue. Billy is not in favor of today's equipment and specifically the golf ball. Augusta has been holding back in bringing out their own golf ball or their own ball spec in order to not embarrass the USGA. But Augusta has given the USGA long enough to correct the golf ball situation to no avail. Billy will not hesitate to move ahead with their own golf ball spec, and maybe very soon. Also, it makes it easier for Billy to bring out the ball rollback without piling more criticism onto Hootie, who has dealt with a mountain of criticism already.
So if true, which side are USGAers Fred Ridley, Walter Driver and Jim Reinhardt on in this power struggle?
If the "Distance Myths" memo is our guide, perhaps they aren't on Hootie's side.