Richie Ramsay set to lose record length he'd just gained due to rule change
Richie Ramsay is starting his 14th consecutive season on the newly-branded DP World Tour minus the long-shafted driver that gave him extra length in 2021 but with a different attitude about trying to keep up with the game’s big-hitters.
Due to the R&A and USGA introducing a new local rule to give tours the option of limiting the maximum length of a club - excluding putters - to 46 inches from January, Ramsay is among the players around the world being forced into a change with his driver.
Using a 47-inch shaft, the three-time tour winner managed to achieve personal records in terms of driving distance this year, even though his average of 292.32 yards was just below the tour average and left him ranked 138th in that category.
“I did some speed training last year and broke records for how far I was hitting it,” Ramsay told The Scotsman. “But that driver had a longer shaft and that has now been banned by the R&A, so I need to change that."
“I thought it might come,” he added of the new rule, which has been heavily criticised by US PGA champion Phil Mickelson in particular. “I wasn’t too sure if the tour would adopt it or not. On the one hand, I can see why they are doing it because, in 10 years’ time, they don’t want everybody to have 47 or 48-inch drivers and just bomb it.
“But the cat is out of the bag and it’s been out of the bag for a long time. The size of the driver head, in my mind, needs to be looked at and, though I don’t have the stats to back it up, you can see the difference with the way guys drive it from when I started out.
“It’s not middle strikes, it’s the off-centre strikes. I grew up in an era when metal woods were just starting out and, if you try and hit a Callaway Big Bertha driver now, it’s way more difficult to hit it than a normal one and if you miss it the dispersion is far greater.”
According to Ramsay, bifurcation, which would effectively see the current set of rules regulating golf equipment being split into two, is required - and the sooner the better. “There are other big issues they could be dealing with,” he said of the game’s ruling bodies. “And, in my personal opinion, bifurcation is the way to go.
“In Saturday medals, you want people to enjoy it and big-headed drivers help them with the misses but, in the pro game, I think smaller-headed drivers would lead to more unpredictability, which I think would make it more exciting,
“For me, the three most exciting players we’ve watched over the last 20 or so years have been Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Seve Ballesteros. Why was that? Because they were hitting great recovery shots.
“They weren’t hitting it from the middle of the fairway all the time. They were hitting it around trees, hitting it off their knees, hitting flop shots and that’s exciting to watch.”
Ramsay, who is teeing up in this week’s Joburg Open at Randpark along with David Drysdale, Craig Howie and Liam Johnston, reckons the game is “totally different” these days to when he started out on the tour in 2009.
“You want to be confident, but there is a reality,” said the former US Amateur champion. “In the Dunhill this year, I played with Nicolai Hojgaard and Wilco Nienaber and they play a different golf course - it’s not even close.
“How Nicolai played nine inwards on the Old Course at St Andrews, and it was cold and into a breeze, was incredible. He drove it on the front edge of 9 and 10, took all bunkers out of play on 12, 13, 14. Was down the middle on 15, at 16 he was over all bunkers into the rough and was trying to hit 3-wood onto the green at the last.
“I need to be at a premium to be able to compete with that. It’s a bit like the Kevin Kisner interview when he’s asked if he can win on a certain course and he replies, ‘no, so 20th is going to be pretty good’.
“There are courses that I believe I can definitely win on. But, if you are hitting the ball that far, it makes a significant difference and the number of people hitting it that distance is growing every year.”
Ramsay is aiming to draw on inspiration from his 2009 South African Open win as he starts the new campaign with a run of three events in the Rainbow Nation before enjoying a break at home in Edinburgh with wife Angela and daughter Olivia.
“I’d love to play the Race to Dubai again,” he replied to being asked about his main 2022 goals of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, which will carry a record $10 million prize fund next November. “I would also like to win. It’s mostly about winning. I’ve only won three times in 339 events and I say only but I am still very happy with that. You lose more times than you win in this game.
“You want to feel those butterflies and, unfortunately, I’ve not felt them as much as I would have liked to lately. The main reason for that is that my belief and confidence isn’t where it should be at the moment.
“I need to focus on being the best version of me and try not to worry about what the other guys are doing. I need to be content with how I perform and not compare it to other people as much. That’s something I’ve probably fallen into over the last year.
“It’s about focusing on what I can do best rather than other people. I think if I can do that, then there is definitely the potential to win again.”