USGA technical director Dick Rugge, 54, has long been on the
front lines of the equipment wars. We asked him to address some
of the lingering issues from the historic USGA-R&A compromise of
two weeks ago.
SI: Who was the backroom hero in all of this?
DR: It was a long, hard road to get here--18 months of
discussions between the USGA and R&A. I think the organizations
deserve equal credit for hammering out a fair, equitable
SI: Titleist has been very vocal in pointing out the agreement
is merely a proposal, not a done deal. Could the COR
[coefficient of restitution] numbers change or the timetable be
DR: We are indeed in a comment period, in which we are listening
to all of our constituents. But the details of this proposal
have been worked over with a fine-tooth comb. I don't expect
there will be any changes, no.
SI: There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen
in five years, when recreational players will be asked to put
away their hot drivers. Any chance the max COR will stay at .86?
DR: That is clearly not in the plan. This is a five-year
phase-in reverting to the ultimate rule. We feel very strongly
SI: What about the manufacturers' complaints that this proposal
is going to harm the industry in the short term because golfers
aren't going to buy anything until all the new drivers come to
market in 2003?
DR: During this process we considered many, many points of view.
As with any compromise, it's impossible to make everybody happy.
What we heard loud and clear is that we needed uniformity in the
rules between the governing bodies, and we have responded to
SI: Is throttling the ball next?
DR: We have spent years listening to people, and the consensus
is that they don't want to go backward. So the position put
forth in the joint statement of principles is that there will
not be a rollback of the ball, but we will freeze things where
they are. At the same time, we don't want to take the rollback
option completely off the table because who knows how driving
distances will progress in the future.
SI: For you personally, is it a relief to finally have the COR
DR: It has been an albatross around all our necks. Since taking
this job two years ago, there has not been a day that I didn't
work on this issue, so I'm not unhappy to see it go away for a
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II