New Driver Testing An Upgrade, Except In The Dreaded Transparency Department

We know the PGA Tour does a lot of things well, transparency when it comes to player violations isn’t one of those. While Commissioner Jay Monahan moved the organization into the 21st century with some improved clarity on who fails drug testing, the public still may be in the dark on a number of fronts about about player fines and suspensions related to things like slow play, club tosses, recreational drug use and courtesy cars abandoned in airport loading zones.

And now drivers failing improved and more regular testing.

Golfweek’s David Dusek rightly praises the tour for upping their game in conjunction with the USGA. And focusing on catching clubs and manufacturers possibly flirting with the rules is absolutely the correct priority. However, that’s where things shift to a protectionist mindset that doesn’t seem to actually discourage cheating.

In a letter sent to players and manufacturers this week that Golfweek obtained, the tour said, “While this testing program will test the clubs in use by players on the PGA TOUR out of necessity, it is important to note that the focus of the program is not on the individual player but rather on ensuring conformity level of each club model and type throughout the season.”

That’s fine for a player’s organization to protect their own, and I’d guess 99.9% of the time players are not aware they have a juiced club because of wear and tear changing the club’s dynamics.

However, without any transparency, what’s the punishment for a clubmaker to obey the rules when all of this is kept behind closed doors free of the public shaming necessary in place of any fine system? Because Dusek writes:

There have been whispers in locker rooms and parking lots that this player’s driver is too hot and this company’s drivers are dangerously close to being non-conforming. Random testing should stop the suspicion and spare players the embarrassment and humiliation that Schauffele must have felt in July.

Random driver testing is easy, quick and long overdue. Golf may be a gentlemen’s game, but even gentlemen want to know that the playing field is level.

That includes the public and other stakeholders, no?

To put it another way: the reaction to 2019’s Xander Schauffele episode seems to be a search for a way to prevent player embarrassment, not from reigning in clubs that cross the line, whether intentional or not. Isn’t the first priority to protect skill and the competition, not egos?