THE DISTANCE DEBATE STARTS HERE!
At the 1991 US PGA Championship, the ninth alternate got a surprise call to play and then stunned the world with his seemingly-reckless swing that extended well beyond parallel – rare at the time – and generated unprecedented distance. A 25-year-old John Daly averaged 303 yards that week at Crooked Stick and 289 yards for the season using the Wilson Ultra – a Surlyn-covered two-piece ball that most described as a rock.
By 1997, Daly had become the first player to average over 300 yards on the PGA Tour when his average tee shot travelled 302 yards.
In the early/mid 1990s, Daly’s length was seen as freakish, a one-off, not a trend that would cause the sort of controversy it does today. The distance debate really has its origin in the massive shift in ball technology that took all the distance capabilities of Daly’s Wilson ball and combined them with the feel and control of liquid core/ wound balls such as the Titleist Professional that Tiger Woods used to win the 1997 Masters.
Nike’s Tour Accuracy ball, launched in 1999 and which Woods began using in May 2000, was the first to exhibit these hybrid qualities, but it was Titleist’s Pro-V1, first introduced to the public in December 2000, that would become the poster child for what many now see as excessive distance.
One person averaged 300+ off the tee in 1997 (Daly). Today, 21 years later, that number stands at 61.
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