PEBBLE BEACH, California – Closing on in age 50 and with five Major Championships, Phil Mickelson has earned a spot as one of the PGA Tour’s elder statesman. And although I’m not a big Phil fan, I listen when he talks about equipment and the equipment rules, as he did here at this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Mickelson, the event’s defending champion, didn’t come directly out and criticize the USGA/R&A “Distance Insights Project,’’ which was released Feb. 4, but he more-than hinted he’s not a fan of doing anything that might inhibit distance or a player’s ability to improve.
“I didn’t really read anything tangible from the report,’’ Mickelson said. “They (USGA/R&A) didn’t want each generation to continue getting longer and longer. I also don’t feel that you should punish the athletes for getting better. I don’t think that we have had massive equipment changes. We have just had athletes that have been able to take advantage of the equipment more so than in the past.
“I hate to see that discourage. You look at what Bryson (DeChambeau) has done getting in the gym, getting after it, lifting weights, and hitting bombs, and now he’s.. now you’re talking about trying to roll (the ball) back because he’s made himself a better athlete. So, I don’t know if I agree with that. But I also don’t really understand the whole scope of how it affects the game and how it affects agronomy and golf courses and so forth.
“I just know from the small little bubble of the PGA Tour, I hate seeing the athletes be punished or discouraged from continuing to work and get better.’’