Keegan Bradley prefaced his remarks by saying he’s got a “really strange relationship” with the USGA after the governing body, along with the R&A, changed golf’s anchoring rules a decade ago that kept him from using the belly putter he started his pro career.
But—and you knew there would be a but when you start your answer with that kind of qualifier—you can safely count him among tour pros who aren’t thrilled with what the governing body, along with the R&A, has proposed regarding a potential rollback of the golf ball for elite golfers.
The 36-year-old major winner and tour veteran, was asked his thoughts after shooting a Saturday 65 to work his way back into contention at the Memorial Tournament.
“I just feel like the USGA admits to making mistakes and then they punish the players for it,” Bradley said, then explaining in more detail.
“I don’t feel like it’s our fault that they think that the ball went too far or that they should have banned the belly putter. They retroactively, decades later, try to adjust and then they just throw it on us.”
In March, the USGA and R&A revealed a proposal to implement a model local rule that would include new testing protocols for golf balls effectively rolling back distance by 20 yards or more. The proposal is in the notice and comment period until August, with officials with the USGA and R&A reaching out to relevant constituencies to get their feedback.
On Tuesday, USGA CEO Mike Whan and R&A CEO Martin Slumbers spoke directly with the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council and tour executives at Muirfield Village, laying out their case for why they want to implement the change, which would go into effect in 2026. A contingent of golf ball manufacturers also got a chance to present its thoughts as the PGA Tour contemplates whether it would implement the MLR for tour events if the proposal was eventually approved.
There are varying opinions about the proposal among players, but anecdotally it sounds as if more are against the idea than for it.
“No, it didn’t sway me one way or the other. I’m still sitting in the spot of waiting to see better evidence of why we should make such a drastic change at this point,” said Adam Scott, the PAC chairman. “I remain open to discuss the merits of it. There are definitely some differences of opinions about what’s going on. But at the moment, I feel it [a rollback] is not really necessary right now, and that’s the general feeling of overall [among tour players].”
It’s definitely so for Bradley, who contends that the USGA and R&A are trying to make up for not addressing the increase in distances that have occurred in the last 20 years, and unreasonably putting the burden for doing that on tour pros.
“We do this as a living. This is how we make our living,” Bradley said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily fair that we pay for their mistakes. And I don’t … I think it’s fine. I mean, what are you going to do if you roll the ball back on this course? You got to build all new tees. It’s 7,800 yards long.”
Mind you, the USGA and R&A would say that’s better than other courses having to stretch their tees back on land they might not actually have. But Bradley doesn’t agree.
“I think the USGA makes a lot of mistakes and I don’t feel as though us, the players, should have to pay for it. I mean, I don’t think that that’s right.”