First, the key lines from the Statement of Principles are important to remember:
Golf balls used by the vast majority of highly skilled players today have largely reached the performance limits for initial velocity and overall distance which have been part of the Rules since 1976. The governing bodies believe that golf balls, when hit by highly skilled golfers, should not of themselves fly significantly further than they do today.Today being May, 2002 when the PGA Tour Driving Distance average was 279.4 (the end of 2001 number)
...any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge of the game. The consequential lengthening or toughening of courses would be costly or impossible and would have a negative effect on increasingly important environmental and ecological issues. Pace of play would be slowed and playing costs would increase.
Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways of protecting the game.
So instead of the anticipated debate over the meaning of "significant" or "meaningful" increases, Driver's remarks make it clear that such a discussion will not take place when the USGA is unwilling to acknowledge the driving distance average around May 2002 (and remember, the PGA Tour average is the key number for them). Driver on ESPN.com:
The facts are that the tour distances are nearly flat the last 3 years. It went down somewhat a few years ago and then leveled off. So the facts show that there hasn't been much increase to show us that we need to act from when we made those statements.
He's right, the numbers are "nearly" flat the last three years, but not the last four. And we'd be giving the USGA the benefit of the doubt by using the 2002 PGA Tour Driving Distance average (279.8), when the 2001 number (279.4) would seem closer to the Statement of Principles issuing. But since the numbers are so close, either works, right? Well, not for Driver.
His statement about the number going down at any point in recent years is pure fiction and he should be embarrassed to peddle such nonsense, especially when preaching like this:
We have a great deal of facts at the USGA upon which we make our rule making. Many of the people that talk about the game are passionate about the game, but they don't have the facts that we have.
There will be no discussion about the meaning of significant from 2002 to 2006, just a shift to discussion about grooves so the USGA doesn't have to take a tough stance and can keep harvesting rough to mask the problem.
So where does the game go from here? How can the USGA be taken seriously when they post such strong statements and then turn their back on those words?