One thing became clear at the Memorial Tournament: A 400-yard drive on the PGA Tour is coming to a tournament sometime soon. It's a wonder it hasn't already happened at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where the wonky downhill holes provide an extra 100 yards of roll. But there are plenty of ultra-long drives happening with great regularity every week without the terrain of Hawaii to give them a push.
This season already, not counting the play at Kapalua, there are 883 drives of 343 yards or more. Add Kapalua, and it's 983. Why did they stop there? No idea.
Not counting Hyundai, the longest drive was 395 yards by Gonzalo Fernandez Castano at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Really, he just had to put his back into it to go for that extra five yards to reach four football fields with his drive. Tell me that's not nuts on every level.
Branden Grace was next at Doral, with 383 yards on the fifth hole at the WGC-Cadillac. That course is more or less flat as a pancake and is in south Florida, with probably humid conditions that slowed his ball down. And next is 5'7" Bud Cauley at the Wells Fargo with a drive of 380 at the 16th hole.
The PGA Tour tracks the location of shots hit by every player with ShotLink. That includes the drives. Distances for every shot, including the drives, are reported every week during tournaments on Shot Tracker, the PGA Tour's augmented scoring system on PGATour.com.
Amazingly, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said at The Player Championship, "We take note of the fact that, on average, the golf ball is going within a couple yards of where it was when the limits were put into place finally in '03. Hasn't been huge movement. Now you've got players like Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson and others that motor it."
Commissioner, it's not just Bubba and Gary Woodland. It's 5'7" Bud Cauley.
Last week at the Memorial, Bubba Watson had the longest drives for the week on three holes. He hit the golf ball—sit down—363 yards on the first, 364 yards on the second and 358 yards on the seventh. Gosh, I'm a big Bubba fan, but you think maybe the equipment has gotten slightly out of hand? With his 6'3" frame, he has a big arc, but still you have to wonder. The slightly shorter, 5'10" Rory McIlroy hit a drive 362 on the 17th hole last week.
Here's what the bombers did to the course:
- Bubba Watson, first hole, 363 yards
- Bubba Watson, second hole, 364 yards
- Robert Garrigus, sixth hole, 358 yards
- Bubba Watson, seventh hole, 352 yards
- Kevin Stadler, ninth hole, 324 yards
- Charl Schwartzel, 10th hole, 351 yards
- Justin Thomas, 11th hole, 356 yards
- Nicolas Colsaerts, 13th hole, 348 yards
- Jason Day, 15th hole, 322 yards
- Rory McIlroy, 17th hole, 362 yards
- Charles Howell III, 18th hole, 347 yards
The rest of the holes are either par-threes or are angled so that hitting a drive with today's clubs and balls is not possible, including the par-five fifth hole.
Now, it would be easy to say, "Oh, these are all big, strong guys." They might be strong, but they are not all "big," although they clearly play big.
Justin Thomas is 5'10". So are Rory McIlroy and Kevin Stadler. Charl Schwartzel says he's 5'11", and he's rail-thin at 160. Charles Howell III is the same height and five pounds lighter. Robert Garrigus outweighs them, but he's the same height. Of the list, only Nicolas Colsaerts at 6'2" and Bubba Watson at 6'3" are over 6 feet tall.
The long drives for the year are tracked on PGATour.com as the season advances.
With any luck, the U.S. Open will play hard and fast and somebody will hit a 400-yard drive there. Then, maybe the USGA will finally pay attention to what unbridled length is doing to golf courses.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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