Bryson DeChambeau’s US Open win at Winged Foot Golf Club once again ignited the debate over how far the modern-day pro hits the ball off the tee. The large majority of older pros expressed their dismay at the Californian’s method of winning by picking up their phone and indignantly tweeting their fear for the future of the game. This type of reaction has a tendency to turn into a pile on and before DeChambeau had even been able to enjoy a celebratory protein shake, the likes of Lee Westwood had even taken to social media to express their frustration. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there is a smugness to this chain reaction that wouldn't look out of place on a school playground.
There have been calls to tame big hitting in golf after the manner of Bryson DeChambeau's US Open victory.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 22, 2020
But his coach says changing courses will not stop DeChambeau from winning.
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Now, as mentioned, DeChambeau’s impressive US Open win in September wasn’t the start of the heated distance debate in golf, it only served to stir up some long-held beliefs that the current golf ball is doing fair competition in the game a disservice. Sadly, that quite frankly is not true and it’s, unfortunately, a lazy assumption to imagine that the person who hits the ball the furthest will win.
Let’s take a look at the current PGA driving stats from the US Open. At the top of the pile is Ryan Fox who averaged 341 yards off the tee, which was 37 yards longer than the average for the field. Despite coming away with the honour of being the man who can hit the ball the furthest, the New Zealander finished an eye-watering 19 over par. Needless to say, he wasn’t around for the weekend. Carrying on, Davis Riley was the man to finish second for the week in driving stats having averaged 336 yards off the tee. Like Fox, Riley was able to follow through with any prior weekend plans having not made the cut. The same can be said for Cameron Champ who finished third for the week in driving distance. Indeed, despite the bombs that Cameron was hitting, he wasn’t going to be the champ at Winged Foot and his chances at Augusta National don’t look much better, either. The big-hitting American is at long odds of 125/1 in golf betting to win his maiden green jacket, which once again suggests that you need more than brawn if you are to finish at the top of the pile.
This is why the argument around distance off the tee is nothing but hysteria. The stats don’t back it up and neither does golf’s oldest adage: drive for show and putt for dough. Indeed, if a player doesn't have the required finesse around the greens and ability to putt, then it doesn’t matter how far they hit it, their chances of scoring well will always be greatly diminished, given players need more than one string to their bow in order to be crowned the champion at the end of the day. That’s golf, and that’s the way it will be for centuries to come.