AUGUSTA (AFP) — Masters legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player predicted Thursday that golf ball changes will be made to limit driving distances of ball-bashers like Bryson DeChambeau to avoid making courses obsolete.
Nicklaus, whose record 18 major wins include six green jackets, and South Africa’s Player, who took three Masters titles among nine major victories, launched ceremonial tee shots to open the 84th Masters.
DeChambeau’s overpowering long-drive performance in winning the US Open in September at Winged Foot has many fearing he’ll crush Augusta National this week by blasting balls to areas co-founder Bobby Jones never imagined.
“He would be turning in his grave now to see Bryson DeChambeau say ‘I’m taking a 3-wood just to put it in the middle of the green on the right,” Player said of Jones.
“Change is the price of survival, isn’t it?”
Player, 85, and Nicklaus, 80, agreed a change in golf balls was needed from governing bodies R&A and the US Golf Association.
“They have got to cut the ball back and they will cut the ball back,” Player said.
Nicklaus said a special ball to limit driving distance might have debuted this year if not for the Covid-19 pandemic that postponed the Masters from April and forced a ban on spectators.
“I believe they probably would have brought (distance) back this year if it wasn’t for Covid, or at least they would have got serious about bringing it back,” Nicklaus said.
“Both the USGA and the R&A said they are serious about it. They have to make some changes with it, otherwise all the old golf courses, all the strategy and everything else that you’ve had on golf courses, is gone.”
Player pointed to St. Andrews, the classic Scottish links layout in the British Open rotation.