American Xander Schauffele hit out at the R&A after being branded a “cheater” as driver-testing in advance of the 148th Open Championship found his club to be non-conforming.
The 25-year-old Californian, who tied for second at Carnoustie 12 months ago, said he felt a decision by the organisers of the season’s final major had been “unfair” due to the fact that only 30 players in the 156-strong field had been selected for testing.
Drivers are tested by the governing bodies for “spring-like effect” and cannot surpass a limit of “coefficient of restitution” or COR.
“I don’t sit at home and test my driver,” said Schauffele, who sits 11 shots off the lead heading into the final round here on five-under. “To my best belief, I was playing a conforming driver.
“Our job as players is to show up to tournaments, put on a show for the R&A and for the PGA Tour and to handle our business. It’s not to make sure our stuff is conforming.
“I thought it was a little bit unfair. I would gladly give up my driver if it’s not conforming. But there’s still 130 other players in the field that potentially have a non-conforming driver as well. I had words with them, and hopefully they take my comments seriously and my concern.
“So, to make it fair, they should test everybody. Other drivers failed.
“It is an unsettling topic. I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people [as apparently happened on the range earlier in the week], to me, it’s not going to go down very well.”
Tiger Woods was also among the players whose driver was tested this week, and he said on Tuesday that his passed.
“We randomly selected 30 players for driver testing as we did at last year’s championship and we can confirm the statement that Xander’s driver failed,” the R&A said in a statement. “We have worked with Xander and his manufacturer to ensure that he has a number of conforming drivers he can use this week.”
Meanwhile, former Masters champion Danny Willett said after a third-round 65 that he feels his game is back on track following a major slump because of a loss of form and injury after his Masters victory.
He won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November to prove he was heading in the right direction and a new calmness about his situation has helped.
“It’s never not fun to shoot 65 on a Saturday at The Open. A lot of things are going well,” he said. “I’ve said it for the best part of 12 months now. The results aren’t what you want them to be, but the work I am putting in is good and it feels inevitable as to when you win again.”