A fifth of the Open Championship field was greeted with an usual request from the R&A this week. The governing body surprised 30 players by asking them to take the drivers out of their bags at Carnoustie and have them inspected to test the clubs' spring-like effect.
Such tests used to be common on the premier tours, and some manufacturers say the USGA and R&A still test conformance behind the scenes at tournaments. However, even though all 30 drivers passed the CT Test (as Mike Stachura writes in his story, CT stands for characteristic time, which refers to a measurement of the rebound effect of a tiny spring-loaded pendulum device impacting the face of a driver), the spectacle of this week's exam was notable, given the game's conversation regarding gains in driving distances in professional golf.
“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 R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers. “It’s driven by us just trying to keep moving the Championship forward and making it more complete and making sure that there is a service provided to ensure that the players are going out there with clubs that are conforming."
However, according to Rory McIlroy, those tested may not have been picked by coincidence. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, McIlroy, who won the Open in 2014, suggested one particular company was targeted.
"No, I wasn’t selected. I did have a look at the board and see who was selected. I think there was one manufacturer that was singled out a bit more than anyone else. The one that I’m using," McIlroy said.
The 29-year-old is referring to TaylorMade. The company's M3 and M4 line is used by bombers like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kopeka, Jason Day and Jon Rahm. According to the Golf Channel's Tim Rosaforte, 16 of the 30 drivers tested were TaylorMade products. In a given week, somewhere between 33 and 36 percent of the field uses a TaylorMade driver.
Slumbers would not reveal the names of the players tested but said that they were picked at random from the full player list.
For his part, McIlroy understands where the R&A is coming from with the interest in testing.
“If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then, obviously, guys shouldn’t be playing them," McIlroy said. “I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much. I’d be very surprised if they found anything this week.”
McIlroy, who ranks third in driving distance, tees off at 12:53 p.m. local time on Thursday.