AUGUSTA, Ga. — Masters chairman Fred Ridley reaffirmed his encouragement for “open dialogue” on the distance issue between golf’s most powerful organizations.
Ridley also made clear that Augusta National’s famed 13th hole no longer poses “momentous” decisions for today’s elite players.
“We continue to closely monitor how distances produced by today’s players affect our golf course,” Ridley said Wednesday. “Thankfully, we do have options. And further change may come after proper deliberation. But we do not think that additional length should be the immediate or only reaction to what we continue to observe in the Masters.”
In a news conference prior to the 2018 Masters, Ridley touched on the distance issue in his prepared remarks, highlighting the “differing views” of the U.S. Golf Association, R&A, PGA Tour and PGA of America.
“We have been consistent in expressing our confidence in the governing bodies, and we will continue to support their efforts,” Ridley said. “Although differing views may well, in fact, exist on the subject among golf’s major stakeholders, we hope and strongly encourage all who are a part of our sport to work together in the best interest of the game as this important issue evolves.”
Asked if he was concerned about having to serve as the deciding vote in any dispute over possible rule changes, Ridley said the club’s opinions and concerns have been “received respectfully” and noted good relations with all of the bodies.
However, the chairman made clear Augusta National has changed.
“There’s a great quote from Bobby Jones dealing specifically with the 13th hole, which has been lengthened over time, and he said that the decision to go for the green in two should be a momentous one,” Ridley said. “And I would have to say that our observations of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision.”
Those were the strongest words uttered by a chairman since the Hootie Johnson era about the role of distance advances.
“We think there is an issue, not only there, but in the game generally, that needs to be addressed,” Ridley said. “The ultimate decision is going to be, I’m confident, a collective one. It’s going to be one where all of the stakeholders sit down and come to some agreement.
“From our perspective, we will always do what’s necessary to maintain the integrity of our golf course. But as I said in my comments, I don’t think that’s the only approach to this. So my hope is that every organization, every stakeholder involved will look at this issue from a holistic basis and not only what might be in the best interests of their own organization.”