Go big or go home?
Are we entering an era where distance is all dominant, asks Stuart Hood?
When Rickie Fowler tapped in a short putt to win February’s Honda Classic, he became the fifth player with an average driving distance of over 300 yards to win on the PGA Tour in the first 15 events of this season. This is not so newsworthy until you discover two things.
First, a decade ago, just three men with an average driving distance of 300 yards or more tasted victory during the entire 2007 PGA Tour season. Second, when you remember that Justin Thomas has three victories in 2016/17 and Hideki Matsuyama two, it means that eight of the PGA Tour’s first 15 events were won by stars who launch it more than 300 yards off the tee. This is a massive jump from the previous two seasons (see graphic below), and Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer has a theory as to why it’s happening.
“You could play a longer ball 25 years ago, but you couldn’t control it,” says the former PGA Tour pro. “Now, the balls are so good that you can get a longer ball that you can still control. This is an issue in the professional and amateur games, because it means that players with more clubhead speed are getting a greater benefit than players with less clubhead speed.”
Former tour player Nick O’Hern agrees. “The long guys get 2030 yards out of the modern equipment, when I might only get five,” he says. While Golf Channel analyst Robert Damron simply states: “The modern ball performs exponentially better the harder you hit it.”
Multiple winner Justin Thomas – just 5ft 10in tall but 308.2 yards off the tee. 2011 2010 2012 2 0 1 3 2 2014/15