PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Plenty of controversy has enveloped the unveiling of several new golf rules in 2019, but that will not be cause for the PGA Tour to break away from the game’s governing bodies and come up with its own rulebook.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made that clear Wednesday during a news conference at TPC Sawgrass, where the tour’s signature event, the Players Championship, begins Thursday.
Mostly out of frustration, players have wondered if it wouldn’t be better for the PGA Tour to have its own rules apart from those written by the United States Golf Association and The R&A. The USGA governs the game in the United States and Mexico; the R&A handles the rest of the world.
“We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” Monahan said, referring to the USGA and R&A. “We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules.
“We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and same standards. We think it’s a source of inspiration for the game.”
Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker have been among several players critical of the USGA and the unveiling of a series of new rules this year that were meant to simplify that game but in some cases caused more issues.
A new drop rule – instead of dropping from shoulder height, players are now required to drop from knee height – cost Fowler a one-stroke penalty in Mexico because he dropped from the old height.
A new caddie alignment rule causes confusion and was later clarified by the USGA/R&A with a couple of high-profile instances of players getting hit with two-stroke penalties.
Fowler said he didn’t feel “the new rules were doing our game any good,” and other players such as Keegan Bradley have also been critical.
“It would be nice if we never heard or got asked questions about the USGA, because they should be off to the side and hopefully the rules are here to help us and help us play,” Bradley said. “I don’t understand what to think of the USGA anymore. They’ve kind of doing their own thing.
“The USGA makes the rules and we’ve got to follow them and maybe someday that would change – but I doubt it.”
Unlike other professional sports leagues, such as the NFL and NBA which have their own rules that differ from how the game is played at other levels, the various professional tours have always adhered to the Rules of Golf.
Monahan said that the PGA Tour was involved in the rules-changing process and encouraged a “modernization and simplification” and that “we were fully supportive of the new rules because we were a participant in creating them.”
The Rules of Golf saw a big overhaul, with the overall number reduced from 34 to 24 and many issues that caused penalties in the past – such as a ball moving on a green or hitting a ball twice – no longer do.
“We are going to make certain that our players understand how we’re working with our industry partners, what our thinking is that we’re sharing with our industry partners and that this game will be well served by having two great professional governing bodies,” Monahan said.