The sport of golf has come a long way since the days when players used bent sticks to hit leather balls filled with fur or feathers around the links courses the game can trace its origins back to.
It’s safe to say those early adopters would barely recognize a pastime that now revolves around clubs and balls made from metals and other materials that hadn’t even been discovered when the first rounds were played.
There have been plenty of technological innovations that have revolutionized golf over the years, but earlier this month, the USGA and R&A suggested science may have gone too far when the governing bodies rolled out a proposal that would require “elite” players to use a modified golf ball that would cap their distance off of the tee.
That plan hasn’t exactly been embraced with open arms by the pros who play at the top level of the sport. Noted distance aficionado Bryson DeChambeau described the proposed rule change as “atrocious,” and Justin Thomas echoed that sentiment by stating the organizations were “trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Now, Rory McIlroy has entered the chat—and his stance on the matter might come as a surprise to a lot of people.
The man who’s spent the past year or so leading the push against LIV Golf recently spoke with No Laying Up about what’s been dubbed the “Model Local Rule.”
During the interview, he gave the proposal a resounding seal of approval, saying:
“I really like it. I really do. I know that’s a really unpopular opinion amongst my peers, but I think it’s going to help identify who the best players are a bit easier.”
McIlroy admitted he’d “selfishly” benefit from a rule change that would even the playing field off of the tee (it’s worth noting he has the highest average drive distance on the PGA Tour this season—one that’s six yards longer than the theoretical maximum the MLR would introduce).
However, he went one step further in his ringing endorsement by suggesting he could play with a modified ball in PGA Tour events even if the rule only ends up applying to the four major tournaments:
“Honestly, for me, the major championships are the biggest deal, so if the PGA Tour doesn’t implement it, I might still play the Model Local Rule ball, because I know that that’ll give me the best chance and the best preparation leading into the major championships.”
Players and manufacturers have until August 14th to give their feedback on a proposal that would officially be adopted in 2026 if it ends up passing.