Rory McIlroy says he would use a ball rolled back even if the PGA Tour doesn’t

Rory McIlroy defended proposed golf ball changes in an interview.

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Even for someone known for being a maverick, this is considered brave of Rory McIlroy.

“Honestly, for me, the big championships are the biggest business,” he said. “So if the PGA Tour doesn’t implement it, maybe I’ll still play the model local rule ball because I know it gives me the best chance and best preparation for the big championships.”

The comments come from McIlroy’s interview with our friends at No Laying Up, in which the world No. 3 discussed proposed changes to the golf ball aimed at limiting distance gains in the pro game. In his first public comments on the matter, McIlroy defended the proposed changes, going so far as to say he would consider playing the new ball on the PGA Tour even if the Tour didn’t implement the equipment changes proposed by the USGA and R&A .

“Again, this is a personal preference and personal opinion at this stage in my career,” McIlroy said. “I know I’m defined by the number of major championships I hope to win from now until the end of my career. And that’s the most important thing for me. If [playing at a competitive disadvantage on the PGA Tour] gives me the best chance of being successful in the major championships and feeling as prepared as possible, then I would do that.”

Golf stakeholders have been talking about an equipment rollback for some time, particularly as advances in club and ball technology have resulted in unprecedented increases in distance and performance at the highest levels of the sport. The USGA and R&A conducted a five-year “Distance Insights Project” to better understand the issue, leading to the conclusion outlined in last week’s meeting: It was time to roll back the golf ball.

In broad terms, the two governing bodies proposed a new “Model Local Rule” that, if enacted, would require professionals to use a ball that travels shorter distances. The proposal keeps modern technology intact for “common golfers” while reversing an undetermined amount of the distance gains seen in professional play.

McIlroy represents through far the most prominent player supporting the rollback campaign, which has drawn the ire of pro golfers and equipment makers since the changes were first outlined last week. The PGA Tour, Augusta National and the PGA of America — stewards of golf’s biggest Pro Tour and two other majors — have taken a “wait and see” approach to the changes, unsure whether they will choose to implement the new rule, if it is to come into force in 2026.

But the USGA and R&A’s involvement in the changes means it’s likely that at least half of the major golf championships will be played with the new golf ball soon enough, and it stands to reason that as the USGA and R&A move forward, Augusta National and the PGA of America will follow suit.

All that remains is the PGA Tour, which would have to vote for the changes as a member organization. Some have suggested that Tour membership could nullify the rule, putting governing bodies behind golf’s majors. But that leaves open the possibility that the majors could still proceed with the rollback, requiring golfers to compete in the sport’s biggest events with different gear than the regular season. It’s a solution no golfer would be happy with – but one, according to McIlroy, could be necessary for the future of the sport at the highest level.

a golf ball on a tee

A dummy guide to the brand new golf ball rules


Dylan Dethier

“I’ve been quite adamant that I don’t really want the governing bodies to touch the recreational golfer because that way we don’t have to make this game as intimidating and as fun as possible just to try and keep attendance at a high-time high ‘ McIlroy said. “So with this new offering I’m glad they haven’t touched the recreational golfer. But for elite level games I really like it. I really do. I know that’s a really unpopular opinion among my peers, but I think it will be a bit easier to identify the best players. Especially in this era of parity that we’ve lived in for the last few decades. I think you’ll see that people with more balanced games are more likely to succeed than what the game has become, which has been a bit of a bomb and rut in recent years.”

It’s been a busy few months for McIlroy’s Zoom calendar. After McIlroy chaired the famous Asphalt Players’ Meeting and led the prosecution in announcing the tour’s latest round of structural changes, McIlroy admitted at the Players Championship that he was looking forward to ditching his ambassador cap and “being a golfer again.”

Apparently that will have to wait at least a week.

“It’s evolved, yes,” McIlroy said. “I used to think they weren’t trying to slow down Formula 1 cars. Innovation is part of every sport. It’s a part of every industry. But whenever that innovation exceeds the footprint of the game, I think we have a problem.”

We’re hoping, for McIlroy’s sake, that golf stakeholders will keep a low profile until spring begins. His next chance at the Masters is only two weeks away.



James Colgan editor

James Colgan is Associate Editor at GOLF and contributes articles to the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, leveraging his broadcast experience on the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 Syracuse University graduate, James – and apparently his golf game – is still thawing after four years in the snow. Before joining GOLF, James was a caddy fellow (and clever looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at Rory McIlroy says he would use a ball rolled back even if the PGA Tour doesn’t

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