Player, Nicklaus on the need for a professional golf ball and Augusta’s phone policy

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Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus on the need to roll back the ball for professional golfers and why Augusta National should change their ban on mobile phones

Gary Player didn’t hold back during his press conference at the Masters on Thursday after hitting the honourary tee-shot with Jack Nicklaus, and called on the governing bodies to form a ball for professionals that is different from amateurs. 

He raised concerns over the future of important golf courses, stating that with the way things are going, there will be a player who one day is able to drive it on the front edge of the 1st green of Augusta National. 

“I’d just like to say one thing, and that is we’ve got to slow this ball down,” said Player. “I know I was ridiculed when I said it in front of British TV, BBC 20 years ago, players will hit the ball 400 yards.  This is happening regularly.  There will be a man standing on the first tee one day and drive it on the front edge of the green. 

“So we’d better start thinking, they are going to hit wedges to all the par 5s, and golf courses like St. Andrews, this marvelous golf course, is completely obsolete.  They can drive probably six greens.  So I don’t know where we’re going.  

“And our leaders of such have got to get together, even though it’s a litigious society, they have got to get together now and form a ball for professionals that’s different to the amateurs. 

“Let the amateurs have anything they like.  We need them to enjoy it.  We need more rounds.  But we have got to stop this; otherwise, it’s going to be a joke, in my opinion.

Player then asked Nicklaus if he agreed, and the six-time Masters winner said he did. 

“I do agree with you on the golf ball,” said Nicklaus. “The golf ball has gotten ridiculous.  I have so many things on that.  You don’t need me on that.

“The golf ball from 1930 to about ’95 gained about six yards.  From 1995 to 2005, about 50 yards, and that’s a big difference.  Probably the organizations won’t tell you that, but that’s exactly about what’s happened.

“Not only that, I used to be called Big Jack, and I’m 5‑8 now.  I was 6‑foot at that time.  The guys today are all 6‑3, 6‑4, 6‑5, and they all are good athletes that hit it nine miles.

“Gary’s right.  Somebody is going to stand on the first tee and knock it on the first green here.  I don’t think there’s any question about it. I’ve seen guys drive it down there right now, 40, 50 yards short of the green, and it isn’t going to take much to get it to the green.”

And it wasn’t the only issue Nicklaus addressed on Thursday.

One of the long-standing traditions at Augusta National has been a ban on mobile phones anywhere on site, and for some it’s a welcome change to seeing thousands of fans watching through their screens as they snap moments of the live action – a regular occurance on the PGA Tour.

But for others, its a practical annoyance, and Jack Nicklaus reckons it might be a tradition that could change soon. 

“I think they will probably change that shortly, I would think,” he said. “Maybe I’m speaking out of turn, but the cell phone has become fairly common with every tournament, the PGA TOUR.

“I think you should ask the PGA TOUR ask Jay and ask the guys at the TOUR if the cell phone has become a problem, or has it become something that’s so much of every‑day life, that people have learned how to respect it and use it properly.

“You all wouldn’t exist without your cell phone; I understand that. I know a lot of people, they have had their privileges taken away coming here because of their telephone. We just felt like we had to get with the times, and I think Augusta will probably do that. A cell phone, you used to take a picture with a cell phone and made a click, right. Doesn’t make any noise anymore.

“I understand, somebody going up and saying, “Oh, hey, Joe, how’s it doing ‑‑ oh, excuse me, you go ahead and putt, I don’t want to bother you.” (Demonstrating fan talking on the phone while on course) I understand that (laughter). I think that’s bad.

“But the actual use of the cell phone within something now, it’s part of everyday life. I understand, I understand exactly what’s going on here and I respect that. But I think that times have changed, and it sometimes takes longer to get things to change with it, but you know, not my call.”

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