Dustin Johnson’s views on the golf ball have changed in the space of a little more than a month.
Back in December, Johnson was sitting next to Tiger Woods for a Golf Channel interview when Woods spoke again about his view the golf ball needs to be curtailed by the game’s governing bodies, particularly as it relates to how far it goes. Johnson seemed to agree, at least somewhat, with Woods when pressed by interviewer Todd Lewis on his assessment of Woods’ view.
“I don’t mind seeing every other professional sport; they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” Johnson said. “The guys that are bigger and stronger can hit the baseball a whole lot further than smaller guys.”
Johnson suggested modern golf balls actually offer a disadvantage to a longer-hitting player like himself.
“The golf ball right now goes a long way,” he said. “It doesn’t spin near as much as it used to.”
He added, “I think with the ball and the equipment, the gap between guys who swing really hard and guys who don’t, it’s not very much. I feel there should be some advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that’s needed. So having a ball, like that same ball that everyone plays, you’re going to have more of an advantage.”
However, speaking ahead of the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Arab Emirates, Johnson seemed to have a different view.
“It’s not like we are dominating golf courses,” he said to BBC Sport. “When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don’t really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn’t matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole.”
That’s not a contradictory point of view to what he said in December. There are a lot of things golf’s major bodies — the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, USGA, R&A, Augusta National and PGA of America — can do to make scoring difficult. They can grow rough, narrow fairways, make greens and fairways firmer. They can tuck pins, increase green speeds and lengthen holes. All of that can thwart scoring to some extent. In fact, Johnson’s quote somewhat validates the rollback argument. Scoring is all that matters. Lowest score wins. So, if Johnson can produce the lowest score with a shorter golf ball on a course that asks more interesting architectural questions of golfers, then the technology doesn’t much matter to the competitive aspect of pro golf.
Johnson later said what’s been a common point for folks against a rollback of the ball, even by a shred: Long hitters are still going to be the longest. (Though that’s not really the point of a hypothetical rollback.)
“If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone,” he said. “I’m still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average tour player. But who knows? I don’t know how they would do it or what they would do or how long it would take them to be able to do it. It’s not really a debate for me.”