Morri: Buckle Up For Big Hitting Champ

Cameron Champ could break new ground for long driving on the PGA Tour.
How far is too far? It’s an unanswerable question, of course, and those of us in the ‘roll back the ball’ camp would say the point was passed about 20 years ago.

But even among the group who argue for the retention of the status quo one can’t help but think 2019 might be a revelation.

Lurking at fifth on the list of those who will graduate from the Web.com to the PGA Tour next season is a young American called Cameron Champ and if his numbers are anything to go by, golf had better buckle up.

At various points in golf history a player has come along whose power from the tee has surprised even fellow professionals.

Bob Jones famously said of Jack Nicklaus that he ‘plays a game with which I am not familiar’ while John Daly was a show stopper in the early 90’s.

Tiger Woods caused heads to turn on the driving range in his early career and Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have done the same in recent years.

Champ looks likely to be the next step along that path and we are just weeks away from seeing it on the world’s biggest stage.

Of Champ’s 105 measured drives in 2018 on the Web.com Tour the average distance he has covered is 342 yards. That’s 312.7 metres. Average.

Over the course of the season there have been 30 tee shots measured at 400 yards (365 metres) or more. Five of them belong to Champ.

His longest was the fourth longest recorded this year and came at the Utah Championship (as did each of the five longest of the year) with a poke of 425 yards (388 metres).

He also holds down fifth and sixth spots on the list with hits of 421 and 420 yards respectively (384 metres).

Of the 200 longest drives hit for the year (all of them 371 yards/339 metres or more) Champ was responsible for 13 of them.

It is yet to be seen if Champ will maintain such prodigious distance off the tee on the more demanding courses of the PGA Tour.

And it would be unfair to label him simply as a long hitter. He can clearly play the game at a very high level which means all other departments are also strong.

But the bigger question is what does it all mean for the game and its future?

If history is a guide then Champ is merely the first among the next wave of power players. In 2010 there were 12 golfers who averaged 300 yards or more off the tee on the PGA Tour while in 2018 that number is 63.

At 342 yards Champ is a full 22 yards longer, on average, than Rory McIlroy, the longest hitter on the PGA Tour this season.

Golf will confront some important questions in coming years and for the professional game this distance issue will be one of the most important.

In the women’s game we have already seen Ariya Jutanugarn reach the top of the world rankings while playing without a driver (she rarely even carries one in her bag) and we may not be far off seeing the same thing in the men’s game.

I can’t help but wonder if anybody believes that would be a step forward for golf.


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