Xander Schauffele Fails Driver Test, Not Happy About Process
When someone asks a golf devotee in North America who the governing body is of his or her favorite game, The USGA springs to mind. Pretty much everyone else in the world answers differently. Leave New Jersey or Newfoundland, and it’s all run by the R&A. If one’s mind doesn’t immediately grasp the abbreviation, here’s a clue. It is one of the most familiar and time-tested names in the history of the game – Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews. Xander Schauffele had no problem in answering that question, especially since he and the grand old organization had words this past week at the British Open.
Even for those of us who may have been aware of the R&A’s presence, that is not the first image that we think of. St. Andrews is the mother course, the one where ancient queens have played, the most prestigious piece of links real estate in the world. However, it runs European golf, which means that to the detriment of Xander Shauffele, it runs the British Open most of all.
Schauffele did not win the Open, but earned the distinction of being the first player to fail the R&A’s CT test (characteristic time), administered to the drivers of a certain number of players each year. Apparently, his driver didn’t “conform” to a test which measures ball velocity coming off of the club face. I suspect that the governing body found the club too ‘pingy.’
The fact that his driver was tested did not irk Schauffele, but the resulting tone in the golf world certainly did. When players of integrity feel that their honesty has been assailed, even the most laid-back types tend to come out swinging. When a club fails to ‘conform,’ the word ‘cheating’ begins to creep into the conversation. As a joke, several fellow players began to bandy the word about with Schauffele, who plays both PGA and European events during the year. Even jokes wear thin, though. The dismissive style in which one is informed of a failure to conform can be injurious to a perfectly good reputation. It could just as easily be done in-house.
The other consideration that irked Schauffele is that he was one of only thirty players whose clubs were tested. That leaves a field of well over 100 more that avoided the same examination. Who knows how many, if any, would have similarly failed the test?
Where is one supposed to go for clubs that guarantee a conforming piece of equipment? The professionals on tour receive their clubs from the top designers. Schauffele got his from Callaway, and it seems as though he should be able to trust that a top of the line Callaway product is welcome at prestigious world events. I have not heard of such CT tests being administered to other clubs, although I assume, perhaps mistakingly, that irons would not show the same degree of variation. Actually, that is my 1960s self talking, before metal woods became standard issue. Next to a club to be used off the tee, I would be interested to know of such variations among putters. Different players have different preferences for “pinginess” on the green as well.
In the end, Schauffele did not incite a riot by speaking up. He was civil, appropriate by all accounts, and was by no stretch of the imagination cheating. Colleagues, however, are lining up to express their appreciation for the stand he has taken. His agent has held talks behind the scenes, and some form of evolution within the process may yet emerge.
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We have all witnessed the various high-profile rules snafus that occurred over the past few years. Every once in a while, a ball will come under scrutiny, and I remember well the British ball/American ball wars of yesteryear. However, if we boil it down to competitively hitting a ball with a stick into a hole, the governing body has just passed judgment on someone who perhaps found a better stick than the other guy. Maybe in the old days, that meant going deeper into the woods, but it should not put a player at risk for getting it from a top sponsor -‘ pinginess,’ indeed.