Recently Mark King (CEO of TaylorMade Adiddas Golf) and Wally Uihlein (CEO of Achusnet, Titleist) shared their thoughts on bifurcation, having different sets of rules for pros and amateurs. Uihlein's message speaks about tradition and the importance of unification. Mark King had a different message to put out there. In a Score Golf interview, King comes right out and says the "USGA could be obsolete in 10 years" and "Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't".
King: "I know but it needs to be extreme. We have an industry that should be growing, it should be exciting, it should be fun and it’s not. And it’s not because the USGA won't let it. Now the USGA would tell you 'Oh, we don't have that power we only make the rules.' But the way this is constructed is the top of the pyramid is the USGA and until they support a new form of golf that is fun and engaging, nothing is going to change. Nothing."
SG: So what needs to happen?
King: "If I were running the PGA of America I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. Right so then what would happen with the U.S. Open and those 11 tournaments? They would follow suit because they would have no choice. Because if they don't have any players they don't have any tournament and if they don't have any tournament they don't have any money."
Uihlein feels differently and roots his argument in the traditions of the game. In his blog he addresses three statements that support bifurcation
What we've seen happen the past several years is that the USGA is more focused on regulating the pro game than on amateurs (majority of the USGA's constituency) and growing the game. From limiting driver distance, limiting the effect of the grooves, and banning anchored putting because of what they are seeing on the various world tours. Now there is even talks of limiting the golf ball distance, obviously because the pros hit it too far ;-) I'm not saying I disagree with everything the USGA is doing, but I do enjoy his candidness. Is some of it fueled because he want to sell equipment? Sure but TaylorMade has a vested interest in growing the game as does the USGA. You could make the argument that King is more in touch with what golfers want more than the USGA.
More from King,
SG: How do you go forward from this as a business then?
King: “What we’re (TMaG) going to do whether there is bifurcation or not is we will continue to make long putters for golfers. If they roll the ball back we're not going to roll our ball back. We will for a tournament ball but we’re still going to sell you a ball you can play. Like I said, two sets of rules are coming. Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't. By the time it happens the USGA is either going to have to get with it or stand off somewhere all by themselves. And look I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule. I'm not. So what's going to happen? If Tim Finchem says he's going to use all the USGA rules EXCEPT the long putter rule there you go. You have two sets of rules. That's where it’s going and it’s coming fast. The sadness I have for the USGA is instead of leading this they're fighting it and for what reason? I don't know.”
SG: So what's the message from your perspective?
King: “The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and new and exciting and consumers only want what's new and exciting. They don't want last year, they want new, innovative cool stuff and if we’re going to stop that or limit that we’re going to kill the industry not just equipment but the playing of the game. So if the USGA doesn't jump on board and lead this new way of golf, like I said, they're just going to be obsolete. And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it’s just the start. The USGA is going over the edge.”