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  • Alistair Tait

Is Bryson baiting golf’s rule makers?

Bryson DeChambeau must have been that kid in the playground who stood and sneered “nah, nah, nah, nah” whenever he bettered his peers.

He certainly seems to be doing just that to the R&A and USGA.

It’s hard not to think of DeChambeau’s recent Instagram post as throwing down the gauntlet to the governing bodies. The beefed-up American hit a drive with a carry of over 400 yards and immediately put it up on Instagram. Actually, Bryson carried the ball 403.1 yards. His ball speed was an eye-watering 211mph. DeChambeau posted:

“First time over 400 yards. Carry… Not even the 48inch driver.”

That 211mph is through the roof. The reigning U.S. Open champion averaged 184.73 mph during the 2019/20 season with a fastest speed of 197.59. Cameron Champ led the tour with a 189.18mph average and a fastest speed of 195.05. The PGA Tour average was 167.71.

Admittedly the drive DeChambeau is bragging about was downwind. Still, it surely sent a strong signal to the R&A and USGA ahead of the release of their findings on the Distance Insights Project scheduled for next March. The fact DeChambeau seems to be suggesting he can carry the ball even farther with a 48-inch shaft should be particularly worrying for the governing bodies. They probably await that Instagram post with trepidation. We await it with fascination.

As I pointed out in September following DeChambeau’s U.S. Open victory, there were six par fours under 400 yards for the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrew: 375 yards for the 1st – thank goodness for the Swilcan Burn; 398 yards for the third; 371 at the seventh; the 10th measured 386 yards; 348 yards at 12; and the 365 yard 18th. How’s that for perspective?

Yes, yes, yes, I know the elements play a big part in Open Championships. I know he won’t be driving the Old Course's first hole into a strong headwind. However, imagine what DeChambeau, Champ, Matthew Wolff and other bombers could do to the Old Course in four days of flat calm weather. The R&A will have to find some tricky pin positions to protect the old lady of St Andrews from being ravaged.

DeChambeau’s Instagram post certainly elicited strong responses. Former Ryder Cup player and two-time European Tour winner Andrew Coltart tweeted:

“Oh come off it!! @RandA @USGA is this really where we want to go? As incredible as this would be to see, surely the consequences outweigh everything else. #bifurcate

In a twitter debate with Mike Clayton, Brandel Chamblee suggests the status quo should be maintained. The former PGA Tour player turned TV analyst tweeted:

“Restrictions are in place. The club will never be springier. The ball will never be faster. The clubhead will never be bigger. Do the math.

I don’t want to get involved in a battle with those who want to limit distance and those who prefer to maintain the status quo. However, it can’t be in anyone’s interest to keep extending golf courses. Surely a line in the sand has to be drawn at some point. That point might be right now. It should have happened years ago, as Tiger Woods said last week:

“They (the governing bodies) should have been worried a long time ago, but the genie’s out of the bag now. It’s about what do we do going forward, and how soon can they do it. I don’t know if they’re going—you’re not going to stop the guys who are there right now. Guys are figuring out how to carry the ball 320-plus yards, and it’s not just a few of them. There’s a lot of guys who can do it. That’s where the game’s going.
“There’s only going to be a small amount of property that we can do, we can alter golf courses. I just don’t see how they can roll everything back. I would like to be able to see that, as far as our game, but then we go back down the road of what do you bifurcate, at what level? So that’s a long discussion we’ve had for a number of years, for 20-plus years now, and I think it’s only going to continue.”

Don’t be surprised if in March the R&A and USGA decide the line in the sand gets drawn right now. Bryson’s bragging might just ensure that happens.

#JustSaying: “These guys in college are weight training and lifting weights and coming out and being very strong, and they are all going to be hitting the ball at least 400 yards.” Gary Player in the late 1990s

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