A vague connection is drawn by the Times between the lengthening of courses and the possible use of drugs with a chart displaying the ever-increasing distance of courses used for major championships, e.g., Winged Foot was 6,987 yards long for the l997 PGA Championship and 7,264 yards for this year's US Open.Frank and other executives key executives keep missing the point. The distance race has created an environment where the emphasis has shifted, and steroids might enter the equation (while anti-depressants are much more refined and likely to be in use).
Courses have been lengthened and otherwise made more difficult for one reason - to keep the scoring as it was in the past. The US Open at Winged Foot was considered successful because the winning score was 5 over par, essentially the same as the 7 over par winning score at Winged Foot in l974.
Distance has shot up not because of a new species of "fitter" players nor drugs but because of an abject failure by the rules-making bodies. The United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club refused to deal with livelier clubs and balls because they were afraid that if they banned a club or ball already in use there might be a revolution.
Here's how silly the distance factor has become: in l980, the first year during which the PGA Tour measured drives, the leader was Dan Pohl with an average of 274.3. Today, on the senior tour, Pohl's distance average is 293.7.
The USGA and R&A, in an attempt to portray themselves as authoritative, will see to it that there is testing of a sort done at the World Amateur Team Championships in South Africa this fall. If they are going to use the drug standards of the International Olympic Committee, they might nab a kid from Lithuania with marijuana in his bodily fluids. Or, God forbid, caffeine.
Again, maybe not now, but in the next few years. The chances are very real of this becoming an issue, so why not deal with it now, before there is any controversy that does harm to the sport's image?
Or better yet, why not just adjust the equipment rules and make distance less of a factor?