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  • Alistair Tait

The year of golf’s epiphany?

Bryson DeChambeau clearly didn’t make any fresh New Year’s resolutions for 2021. He just recycled his 2020 ones.

Speed is of the essence for beefed up Bryson in 2021, just as it was last year. The year has hardly started and the reigning U.S. Open champion is talking of further increasing his ball speed this season. DeChambeau led the PGA Tour last year with an average speed of 192.8 mph.

“I haven’t given up the pursuit of trying to get faster,” DeChambeau told the Golf Channel ahead of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

DeChambeau is seeking eye-watering average speeds of 207-210mph.

“At that point, I’ll probably be like, ‘OK, that’s good enough,’” he said.

The word your looking for? Frightening.

Will DeChambeau’s pursuit of power be in vain, though.

It seems a perfectly good question on today of all days to ask: Is this year of golf’s epiphany? The year when golf says it's time to change?

The R&A and USGA have yet to publish their Distance Insights Project findings, and recommendations for the game based on those findings. They'll do so in March.

DeChambeau’s search for more speed might be for nought if golf’s rulers decide enough is enough and clamp down on the excessive distances players like DeChambeau and other top stars are achieving.

I don’t want to get drawn into picking sides in the distance debate, but surely even the most die-hard supporter of letting technology do its thing has to realise there comes a time when enough is enough, a time to say 419-yard drives are beyond a joke?

The distance debate has been raging for far too long, as did the grooves and the long putter debates. I’m all for taking a measured approach to the importance issues within our game, but 20 years to decide on what’s best is far too measured for my liking. The distance issue should have been put to bed years ago.

Luminaries such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Players and many others have been calling for distance to be reined in for years. In fact, Sir Henry Cotton had an epiphany of his own 40 years ago. In the closing chapter of Thanks for the Game: The Best of Golf with Henry Cotton, the three-time Open Champion looked into his crystal ball and saw a time when a…

“…change to a lighter ball would bring thousands more courses automatically up to championship standards and cut down on the reign of the power players, for skill would count more than sheer strength and the day of the female Open Champion could approach. There would be some turning of male bodies in their graves at the thought of Mrs Nancy Lopez Melton’s name on the old trophy plinth.
“Golf balls could be standardised, the same ball for every competitor in the Open Championships of the world, no maker’s specials.”

The Maestro was clearly ahead of his time. It’s not hard to imagine what he would do if he was still around and had ultimate power over this royal and ancient game.

Bryson’s quest for the Holy Grail might just be in vain if the rules makers decide 2021 is the year of golf’s epiphany.

#JustSaying: “Students everywhere seem to agonise over the finer points of the swing, or the position of the feet, or whether the head is quite still. All this emphasis on method: no mention of simply finding the ball – which is a development of a skill we all have from the day we are born.” Sir Henry Cotton.

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