The most powerful active voice in golf took his stance beside the USGA and The R&A on Tuesday. Rory McIlroy told No Laying Up that he supports the model local rule the bodies proposed a week ago that would limit how far and how fast the golf ball flies.
"I'm glad in this new proposal that they haven't touched the recreational golfer," McIlroy said. "But for elite level play, I really like it. I really do. I know that's a really unpopular opinion amongst my peers, but I think it's going to help identify who the best players are a bit easier."
Rory calling this an "unpopular opinion" might be putting it mildly. Most of his peers -- Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson among them -- have come out over the last week against the proposal. McIlroy has a motive, for sure: A reduction in ball flight would probably (though not definitely) help longer, better golfers.
"Selfishly, I think it helps me," McIlroy said. "I think this is only gonna help the better player. You know, it might help the longer player too, in some ways. But I think it's going to help the overall professional game. I think making guys hit some long irons again, and some mid irons, and being able to hit every club in your bag in a round of golf … I can't remember the last time when I've had to do that. I don't know if this change in the ball will make us do that, but it certainly is a step closer to that."
Jon Rahm, who does not agree with McIlroy overall, did concede the point about longer players when speaking Tuesday.
"I think, if you were to roll the ball back, it's going to be more damaging to the shorter hitters on [the PGA] Tour than it is for people that have distance," said Rahm. "If you're giving me a 7-iron as opposed to a 9- or an 8-iron, that means you're giving somebody a 4- or 5- as opposed to a 7- or a 6-[iron]. I'm still going to be able to stop it in most places with a 7-iron when some people might not. Especially, we're talking about missing fairways right now. You're putting those players in a tougher situation."
McIlroy's primary point focused on how the PGA Tour will ultimately receive this. McIlroy is the Tour's most important player, and it -- like any organization -- does not have to adopt this model local rule, if in fact it goes through over the next year or two.
"Honestly, for me, the major championships are the biggest deal, so if the PGA Tour doesn't implement it, I might still play the Model Local Rule ball, because I know that that'll give me the best chance and the best preparation leading into the major championships," McIlroy said. " ... If that gives me the best chance to succeed at the major championships and feel as prepared as I possibly can be, then that's what I would do."
That's a big-time statement that will carry a lot of weight at the Tour, which can't afford its best player to be playing different equipment than everyone else. How it plays out remains to be seen, but what is clear is that McIlroy -- like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus -- supports rollback and the preservation of continuing to go to the most historic golf courses in the world.