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Fear and loathing in the caddie lounge as rangefinders threaten to transform major golf

Rory McIlroy of the American Nurses Foundation team uses a rangefinder in practice - Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy of the American Nurses Foundation staff makes use of a rangefinder in observe – Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Terrifying laser-guided machines are advancing on to the fairways this week and the mortals are desperately mobilising. Who will prevail in this combat to the dying and which side will golfing cyborg Bryson DeChambeau be on?

It is straightforward to dive deep into hyperbole as the 103rd US PGA Championship at the Ocean Course turns into the first big-time skilled match to allow distance-measuring gadgets, however there is no such thing as a mistaking the sense of unease in the caddies’ lounge as Thursday’s first spherical approaches.

That a lot has been apparent since the PGA of America introduced in February that it will permit rangefinders – throughout precise rounds, as properly as on observe days when they’re now customary – so turning into the first major physique in the sport to accomplish that. The cause? To pace up play.

Though the Rules of Golf have given the lasers the inexperienced mild to be utilised since 2006, a neighborhood rule was additionally invoked which gave organisers the proper to ban the devices. And everybody has – the primary Tours, all the majors, the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. Until now. One small step for man. One 185.25-yard step for mankind.

The caddies usually are not seeing the humorous aspect. When contacted by Telegraph Sport, Billy Foster, the much-loved looper for Severiano Ballesteros, Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, and now Matt Fitzpatrick, waved away the topic. “Waste of time, not interested,” he replied.

Mark Fulcher, Francesco Molinari’s caddie, sounded equally detached. “Let’s see if it does speed up play, eh?” he mentioned. The principle is that with extra info at their disposal, the execs this week will probably be slower, not faster, to determine on their photographs. And the hope is that when it’s realised that rounds are taking even longer, the rangefinders will probably be exterminated virtually as quickly as they emerged.

Yet the alarm on the official web sites inform a special story. The Caddie Network, which represents the PGA Tour Caddie Association, pointed Telegraph Sport to an article it has posted with a variety of views from its members, the majority of that are unfavorable.

“It’s going to do the exact opposite [to speeding up play],” Kenny Harms, Kevin Na’s long-time caddie, mentioned. “Lasers aren’t as accurate as you think they are. If you shoot it three times you might get three different numbers.”

Shay Knight, who works for Viktor Hovland, foresees one other downside. “If you laser what you think is the pin and it’s picked up something else and you’re actually hitting the grandstands behind, you’re going to send your player over the green,” he mentioned. “And we’ll get chastised for that too.”

In response to the piece, Paul Stephens, the veteran Englishman who counts Sir Nick Faldo and Tom Watson amongst his former employers, mentioned: “Absolutely disgusted! The true art of caddying has been dying for years and this is the final death knell for it. Watched them being used in an event in Sydney and they took over five minutes to hit shots on a par three!”

Meanwhile, over at The Tour Caddies web site, an offshoot of the European Tour Caddie Association, an editorial leads its residence web page entitled “Lasers are not the future”.

“Just doesn’t feel true to the game,” it says, earlier than utilizing an instance to current its trigger. “Take the 17th at Kiawah next Sunday. Over 200 yards to a pin cut tight on the left side, grandstands wrapping round the green … Now you try lasering the flag blowing away from you in a two-club wind with all that lot going on.

“Assuming you can even do that, it’s way too risky that it’s picked something that isn’t the flag. So what do you do? You use the yardage book instead.”

It is clearly an emotive subject and one that has risen its ugly sense at an emotive time. Last month, one well-known bagman told me he believed his profession was “a dwindling industry”. Not due to the risk of those gadgets, however extra so in any respect the associates and household turning up in bibs.

“A dozen of the world’s top 50 have best mates or their partners or their sons working for them,” he mentioned. “And the more success they have, the more this will happen.”

Lee Westwood has fiancée Helen Storey as caddie here, but would strongly advise any young player to “hire a professional caddie … They bring experience and give you far more advice than distances,” he mentioned.

Westwood does his personal yardages and says he “in all probability will chuck a rangefinder” into his bag.

“But I won’t be using one from the middle of the fairway,” he added.

Storey leaves working out the yardages to Westwood but her support comes in other ways - Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Storey leaves working out the yardages to Westwood but her support comes in other ways – Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

His Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter concurs, pointing out the one aspect which everyone concedes can be the rangefinder’s big positive. “It will help when you are miles offline,” he said. “Like Jordan [Spieth] I suppose at the Open.”

At Birkdale in 2017, Spieth’s caddie, Michael Grellar was entrusted with coming up a distance after his player’s drive had “gone off the grid” in the dunes, more than 50 yards wide of its target. However, he managed it and Spieth won and that is why Justin Thomas, the world No2, wants to preserve the status quo.

“I don’t really like them,” Thomas said. “I think they take away an advantage of having a good caddie that goes out there and does the work beforehand. I’m not sure why they are introducing them, to be honest.”

In truth, the bafflement flanks the foreboding, but there are whispers of “super machines” emerging which, with the technology significantly enhanced, can relay unimagined data. At the moment the rules state that only distance and direction is allowed, with devices giving elevation changes and wind speed still outlawed.

But for how long, if the money men get their way? One caddie, who wishes to remain unnamed, claims that this is at the root of the issue.

“There has been no clamour for these things to be made legal by anyone on Tour,” he says. “Even Bryson has said it could be a bad idea and him turning down even more information is like John Daly turning down Diet Pepsis.

“But in case you suppose the PGA represents roughly 30,000 membership execs right here in the States, most of whom earn a giant portion of their dwelling from promoting tools, then you definitely may begin to perceive. Seeing the superstars using them could lead on to fairways being clogged up with hackers who can’t management their distances, utilizing them. So golf will change into even slower. But it’ll make extra {dollars}.”

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