Thanks to readers Dave, Matt and others for sending highlights of the ESPN.com chat with Walter Driver Jr., which despite sounding like a prescription for an insomnia cure, did in fact make news. Or at least, it might put a damper on the spirits of those who have mysteriously clung to the hope that the USGA regime would actually do something on distance.
The more interesting exchanges, starting with the question I submitted:
Geoff (Santa Monica, California): In 2002 the USGA issued a statement of principles saying that any significant distance increases would result in regulation. The Tour average is up 10 yards since then, so when is the USGA going to act?
SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: 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.
So there you have it. It went down and there hasn't been much increase. Now, is it me, or is Walter Driver, uh, lying through his keyboard?
The USGA issued the Joint Statement of Principles in May of 2002. That year the Tour average finished at 279.8 yards. We're current 10 yards past that average. Not down. Up. And the statement suggested that it would need to be a significant number to act. Significant?
Driver seems to be saying that the statement didn't really take effect until the end of 2003, a year and a half after the statement was issued. Yes, the numbers have been fairly consistent for three years, but the statement was issued four years ago.
Face it, the USGA just isn't going to act. The organization is irrelevant led by folks who just aren't willing to act on behalf of the best interests of the game. Next question.
Mark Smolens (Chicago, IL): Has the USGA looked at any of the data that was gathered at the Ohio Golf Association's recent event and compared it with the information you folks claim to be gathering on the performance of the modern golf ball?
SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: We've been accumulating data on modern equipment since teh mid 1970s. We've spent money on researching modern technology and we believe that we know enough and have enough data than anyone in the world.
Nice question from Smolmania. Even nicer job evading the question by Driver.
Steven -- NY, NY: What's being done to regulate equipment so long hitters aren't hitting the ball 350 yds and drastically changing the game?
SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: The USGA has had a limit on overall distance since the mid-1970s and all golf balls are subject to that. Then in the 90's the USGA put a limit on the spring like effects of drivers. There are no limits on the physical abilities of players, but there is on the spring like effects on the drivers.
Wow, Steven must really have been satisfied by that answer! But guess what, ESPN let in another equipment question. And guess what, the USGA has facts, the greatest players in the game don't know what they are talking about.
Charles Brown (Ann Arbor, Michigan): Lee Trevino has added his voice to that of Jck Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer, all voicing what can only be described as the most serious possible concerne about the USGA's perceived fialure to better regulate technology. How do you respond?
SportsNation Walter Driver, Jr.: 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. Equipment issues are just one of the issues. I urge you to go to USGA.org to look at some of our facts, in addition to our myth busters. We have limited somethings and done a lot of activities to regulate the game as far as equipment goes.
Who you gonna call? Ah the mythbusters.