July 11, 2003
It’s getting a little testy out there on the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods recently alleged that somebody on the Tour is using a driver that doesn’t conform to technical rules designed to limit the “spring-like effect” of crushing a golf ball against a thin face of titanium at well over 100 mph.
The equipment rules adopted by the USGA and the Royal & Ancient last summer placed a limit on the Coefficient of Restitution (COR) of 0.830 on all drivers used in competition.
Thinking about words like “coefficient” usually makes my hair hurt.
Basically the rule is intended to keep golf balls from being rocketed off the club face more than it should.
At the swing speeds Tour players generate, this is a real risk. For amateur golfers, whose average drives lag behind most members of the LPGA Tour, this is not a major possibility.
Dave Anderson wrote in the July 6 New York Times that the Tour is considering changes in its procedures to provide for equipment checks at each Tour stop. Players can voluntarily prove that their drivers remain within the official performance limits. As Anderson put it:
Woods is wrong in putting so many other long-hitting pros under suspicion, but he is correct in putting this unidentified pro, who he believes is getting extra distance off the tee with an illegal driver, on notice as a suspected cheater — the worst insult in golf.
Although testing next year will be voluntary, it will also be on demand. With a portable testing device at every PGA Tour event, Woods or any other pro can request the rules officials to test the driver of a certain player, or the drivers of several players. Even if the driver proves legal, it could provoke some angry rivalries.
I watched some of the Western Open coverage on ABC on July 5. The network ran a very good segment on this issue.
I preferred Curtis Strange’s suggestion over Tiger Woods’ recommendation for mandatory driver testing before each round. Strange said the Tour should follow the NASCAR example, in which the vehicles are checked not only before the race, but also immediately thereafter.
As racing fans know, there can be some ugly consequences if a car or truck is found to be out of compliance. For example, this spring NASCAR suspended Craftsman Truck series crew chief John Monsam for two races for violating equipment rules on Jon Woods’ Ford. Monsam also had to pay a fine.
The same post-event testing model is also used in horse racing, under rules adopted by the Delaware Harness Racing Commission and similar regulatory bodies. Again, there’s a premium on maintaining the integrity of the sport for the sake of its long-term success.
The risk is the same in all three sports. There’s a lot of money at stake, and unfortunately some folks will try less-than-legal means to enhance their chances to obtain some of that cash.
The point of post-event testing is also the same—the honor of the sport is more important than any of its participants, and anyone who would besmirch their sport’s honor has no place in it.
There’s no time like right after the event to frighten some folks into remembering that fact.
Georgetown attorney Clayton Bunting, Sr. and his wife Debbie have a keen personal interest in The Rookery Golf Club near Milton.
In addition, their son, Clayton, Jr. is an avid golfer, and a pretty good one at that.
On June 30 he won the 12-year-old US Kids State Title, at Wild Quail Country Club near Camden, Delaware.
Clayt, as he’s called, shot a smooth 76. The winning score qualified him to play in the national US Kids Golf championship in Williamsburg, VA from July 30 through August 2. The nationally-televised event will take place at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club and Williamsburg National Golf Club, so the kids will be tested on these two tough courses.