Major winners Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy believe the professional game needs to change as they prepare to play together for the 101st New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport, starting near Queenstown on Thursday.
Campbell and Ogilvy have both returned to play in the Open among 156 professionals who join 156 amateurs for the tournament at Millbrook Resort and The Hills in Arrowtown.
While the pair are impressed with the distances from young players in the game, both believe change must come.
“Golf’s footprint doesn’t need to get bigger. It doesn’t make sense to have a golf course on 400 acres when you can have a perfectly good one on 300 acres,” said Ogilvy.
“There are multiple guys who fly it 330 yards now and that wasn’t reality 20 years ago and 20 years before that it was shorter again. In 50 years time if you follow the distance curve, golf holes will need to be 800 yards long. That does not make a lot of sense.”
Campbell laments that some of the skillset has gone out of the game.
“I’ve said this many times, I’d rather see the ball maybe played or even the clubs themselves, played a little bit harder so you need more skills. The skill set’s a little bit different now. I noticed as well that the 25, 26-year-olds, their short game isn’t as sharp as it should be because they rely on their distance.”
The Spain-based former US Open champion said the length hit by younger players has made him realise he cannot foot it on anything other than the seniors tours.
“It’s made me realise that the game has moved on a lot. I don’t like it to be honest with you.
“I feel that it’s lost its creativity, imagination, because the ball doesn’t move as much and all they do now these days, these kids, they just bomb it and swing the club as hard as they can and find it. We’ve seen the huge transformation, the big jump in how the game is played now.”
Both players were quick to return to play in Queenstown.
“It surprises me every time. We live over in Australia and travel a long way to go on holidays and this place is 2-and-a-half hours away in a plane and we don’t come here all the time. It is a miraculous place and I had a great time here last year. I loved it and if I had any chance to come back I was going to do it so here I am,” said Ogilvy.
“I had a couple of good rounds at the Vic Open recently. It felt good yesterday and no reason why I can’t have a good week.
“The courses are different enough that you know you are playing a different course but you are in the same atmosphere and similar grasses. I enjoy playing both. They are great fun to play. If you play well at one there’s no reason you can’t play well at the other.”
Meanwhile, Campbell said he is in good shape but lacking competition play after he was unable to secure regular starts on the seniors tour, particularly in the United States.
“I’m down to 90kgs which is what I was when I was playing which is nice. The only thing that’s lacking really is a bit of match practice. I haven’t played since November, so once again coming into this tournament not expecting too much. I just want to support the New Zealand Open obviously and support my sponsor Manuka Doctor.
“It’s nice to be here. Both courses are fantastic, in great condition. It’s a bit more lush, a bit more green, the rough is definitely longer than it was last year. It’s going to be fun.”
The tournament starts on Thursday at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the cut with the top 60 professionals and ties playing the final two rounds at Millbrook Resort at the weekend.
Photo: Photosport NZ