• The world No. 2 weighed in on the simmering distance debate, claiming that any rollback would exacerbate the difference between long and short hitters.
By Daniel Rapaport
February 05, 2019

Three-time major champion and world No. 2 Brooks Koepka weighed in Tuesday on the simmering distance debate brewing beneath golf's surface, claiming any change to the golf ball would exacerbate the difference between long and short hitters. 

"If they roll the golf ball back, it's just going to make the long hitters even longer," Koepka told SI.com in a roundtable orchestrated by the PGA Championship, which Koepka won last August. "There's going to be more of a separation from the long hitters to short hitters."

"Guys that hit it 270 will hit it 240. Guys that hit it long are still going to hit it 300. Doesn't matter. It's really going to affect guys that don't hit it long. If they change the ball, you won 't see short hitters on Tour anymore. They'll all be gone."

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The debate over wether the USGA and R&A should enact measures to combat ever-increasing driving distances has intensified in recent years; in 2017, the two governing bodies called a recent uptick in driving distance "unusual and concerning." The averaging driving distance on the PGA Tour was 296.1 yards on the PGA Tour in 2018, up 3.6 yards from 2017 and up 23 yards since 2000.

Koepka, 28, averaged 313.4 yards off the tee last season, the eighth-best mark on the PGA Tour. 

In response to the recent trend, the USGA and R&A launched the Distance Insights project in 2017, an initiaitve to study the past, present and future impacts of distance on golf. The results of that project are expected this year, and there is some belief that changes could be on the way. 

The most talked-about proposal would be a rollback of the golf ball to some agreed-upon standard. What that would look like is unclear. Possibilities include limiting the maximum initial velocity a ball can achieve as well as banning certain materials, internal construction methods and/or dimple patterns. 

Other notable supporters of a rollback include Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, the latter of whom has expressed desire for a bifurcation of the rules, similar to baseball's. This approach would keep today's balls legal for amateurs but not for touring professionals. 

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