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R&A conducts random tests on drivers of 30 players ahead of British Open

Better golf through technology?

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club wants to make sure that doesn’t get out of hand. The R&A confirmed reports that it has randomly tested the drivers of 30 golfers playing in the British Open to make sure they conform to standards. In that group were seven major champions, including Brooks Koepka and Keegan Bradley.

It’s not unusual for the R&A to test clubs, but the random testing is new.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the rules of golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players’ drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, R&A chief executive.

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The R&A and U.S. Golf Assn. are working together on a distance insight project to determine whether improved technology is affecting the game in a negative way.

Slumbers said that, as it was a year ago, the R&A is still “concerned where the preliminary numbers were going, and that our concern was based upon … whether the balance between skill and technology for the recreational game and the elite game was appropriate.”

He added: “Golf is a game of skill, and long may it remain being a game of skill.”

Going for it

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Because of how firm the fairways are at Carnoustie, a lot of golfers are debating whether to play with their drivers and try to wallop the ball, or to play shots short, safe, and out of trouble.

Rory McIlroy is one of those.

“I guess the risk of hitting driver on a few holes is not having full control of your golf ball if it does run into the rough,” said McIlroy, who won four major championships between 2011 and 2014 (including the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool) but hasn’t won one since.

“But the amount of gorse bushes that they’ve taken away from this golf course since 2007, obviously, the fairways are — you know, they’re not necessarily narrow, but they’re not too generous either. But even either side of the fairway, you’ve still got another five to 10 yards where it’s OK.”

Basically, he sounds like someone on the fence, and it’s entirely possible he’ll lean on his driver and try to take advantage of his length off the tee.

“With links golf, you have to adapt,” he said. “I think there’s not going to be one player in this field that has a game plan on Wednesday night and is going to stick to that game plan the whole way around for 72 holes. It’s just not going to happen with wind conditions, with pins.”

Trimming the course

In a world where everyone is lengthening their courses to keep up with bigger hitters in tournaments, the R&A actually shortened Carnoustie by 19 yards for this championship.

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“It’s because we want to create a world-class experience for all our spectators and also for our players,” Slumbers said. “We put a grandstand on the first tee, which we’ve never done before, and it’s created a fabulous atmosphere on that tee, which I’m really looking forward to hearing [Thursday] morning. And that’s why it’s 19 yards shorter.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer


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