In the post PGA coverage, Brett Avery offers a rather astounding chart in the Golf World stat package (PDF).
Now I'm in favor of the groove rule change because it has the potential to restore the importance of firm greens, but will only be meaningful if an increase in fairway width comes with it.
However, the USGA and R&A continue to contend that armed with V-grooves, the world's best will be forced to respect rough and therefore they will have to throttle back in an attempt to hit more fairways. In other words, it's a backdoor way of rolling back distance increases. I still believe it's pure fantasy, but hey, if it makes them happy and leads to other positives, so be it.
Yet no study has determined how much fairway narrowing has played a role in the driving accuracy decreases so regularly cited as the cause for regulating grooves.
So here we have Oakland Hills, host to the 1996 U.S. Open and on the cusp of the distance explosion, and again host to the 2008 PGA where a remodel narrowed fairways and rough was farmed and coifed.
The 2008 field median was 30 yards longer off the tee than in 1996 while the fairway's hit median dropped 8 fairways.
The governing bodies would like us to believe that these dramatic increases in distance and decreases in accuracy are a result of players finding themselves armed with U-grooves that persuades them to flog drives with reckless disregard for the awful fairway contours crafted to take driver out of their bag.
Seems in the case of Oakland Hills that the radically improved driver/ball combination (oh and of course, the increased athleticism!) along with a further reduction in width since 1996 was likely much more significant than the grooves in fostering such radical differences in distance and accuracy.