McGinley pursues 'length of courses' debate

Paul McGinley considers himself “only a little voice” – but he is determined to keep speaking his mind about the length of courses in the hope somebody listens.

Paul McGinley considers himself “only a little voice” – but he is determined to keep speaking his mind about the length of courses in the hope somebody listens.

The 38-year-old Dubliner is once more disappointed by what he sees in front of him at this week’s USPGA Championship at Baltusrol.

Europe’s top performer at Whistling Straits last year – his sixth place finish propelled him into the Ryder Cup team – McGinley is on something of a crusade about the ever-increasing length of courses.

“The powers-that-be don’t seem to get it,” he said. “It’s length, length, length and I ask why. It’s just playing into the long-hitters’ hands.

“I don’t think that’s what the future of golf should be. I think it should be firm and fiery courses. Where will it end? Hopefully when someone wakes up and realises you don’t have to make a monster.

“I don’t blame technology for where we seem to be going. I blame course set-up. We have moved away from making shot-making and skill crucial factors.

“I know I am only a little voice, but I love the game and I still remember the way my Dad showed me all about course management.”

McGinley was critical of the changes made to St Andrews for last month’s Open - “we got lucky because the weather was so good” – and knows his chances of shining in the Masters have been lessened by the announcement of six new tees for next year’s event.

He wishes the ruling bodies would take note of the way Pinehurst was set up for the US Open in June.

“It wasn’t long and yet nobody broke par. That’s the future, not 8,000-yard courses, which is where we are heading. I have no problem with length being a factor. But that should not be all it’s about.”

Whistling Straits last year was on the banks of Lake Michigan and a links-style game was needed there.

But Baltusrol, with two par fours over 500 yards and a par 70 measuring nearly 7,400 yards, is what McGinley calls the “stereotype” American course. Long with thick rough.

“I am a great believer in horses for courses,” he added. In other words, it will take a supreme effort for him to repeat last year’s display.

A little voice maybe, but certainly not a lone one. Darren Clarke and Luke Donald have also said that this is not the way they want to see golf go.

McGinley would love to hear Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson echo that. But since they are favoured by the trend he does not expect that to happen.

But Jack Nicklaus’ opinion still counts for a lot and he is continuing to speak out.

Made the honorary chairman for this week’s event, Nicklaus, who retired from competitive golf at the Open, said: “The longer you make it the more you make it a power game.

“The top guys have sacrificed driving accuracy for length. They would rather play a sand wedge out of the rough than a six-iron out of the fairway because they can still spin the ball out of the rough with the grooves they have got.

“It’s a different game – a totally different game – than I played. I would like to see it where you get a guy of Gary Player’s stature come along and he can still compete.

“He doesn’t have to be Ernie Els’ size to compete. I guess that’s why they don’t raise the bucket in basketball – even though it’s a big man’s game the little guy can still play.

“Little guys have a hard time playing this game any more. I just don’t like to see people eliminated because of physical stature. It should be ability and how you hit your golf shots and the way you can make your putts.”

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