- Alistair Tait
Will a dunter win this Masters?
Webb Simpson will win this week’s Masters. Or Graeme McDowell. Ian Poulter. Chez Reevie. Kevin Kisner. Brandt Snedeker. Maybe Marc Leishman. Perhaps Matt Fitzpatrick. Matt Kuchar, anyone?
There has been so much focus on the long bombers since Bryson DeChambeau’s U.S. Open win it’s almost sod’s law a short hitter will win this week. Who’ll be the dunter (Scots defintion of "dunt?" – a blow, a knock; a blow causing a dull sound) to join the likes of Larry Mize, Mike Weir (above) and Zach Johnson as short-hitting Masters champions?
Simpson and co are among the shortest hitters in the field, players who average less than 300 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. Yes, it's a sign of the times that anyone who averages less than 300 yards is considered short; there are currently 120 players on the PGA Tour who average 300 yards or better.
Simpson is ranked 134th on the PGA driving distance table at 298.6 yards per drive. He’s the bomber in the group, but still over 45 yards shorter than DeChambeau, who leads the driving distance table with a 344.4-yard average.
Beefed up Bryson has everyone thinking he’s going to bomb his way to victory at Augusta National after his six-shot win at Winged Foot. His subsequent bragging about a 400-yard carry for the first time only intensified that hype.
McDowell ranks 179th with a 293.4-yard average. Snedeker is 182nd with average drives of 293.3 yards. Poulter is 200th with 292.1 yards. Kisner ranks 206th at 290.9. Leishman hits it 289.6 yards to be 214th. Fitzpatrick sits 227th with 288.3 hits. Reevie comes in 237th averaging 287.2 per pop. Matt Kuchar is a 286.9-yard man to rank 239th.
All of the above can't match the fire power of the reigning U.S. Open champion or world number one Dustin Johnson, third on the distance table with 328.8-yard average drives. Many of the aforementioned shorties are two, three, four, even five clubs at a disadvantage to the brutes in the field. Just as well driving distance doesn’t settle who gets to slip on that garish green jacket at the end of the week.
“Thankfully, there are still a lot of ways to get the job done,” McDowell recently told the Irish Times. “Have I been in the gym the last six months thinking about smashing at it about 185 miles per hour? Yeah, I have. But am I smart enough to know that I don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardise the rest of my game?
“I went down the road four or five years ago where I tried to hit it a little longer and I didn’t like the way it affected the rest of my game.
“My game is built for being in the fairway, and great iron play, great wedge play and great putting. I’m not like Bryson or Phil (Mickelson) or some of these guys; they want to move it as far as humanly possible and they don’t care if they miss the fairway. I need to be in the fairway and that’s just how my game’s built.”
It worked for Mize, Weir and Johnson. Mize would’ve been miles behind Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in any long driving competition. Yet he defeated both in a playoff for the 1987 Masters thanks to the shot of his life from the side of the 11th green.
Remember when Weir won in 2003 on a course that had supposedly been Tiger proofed? Augusta had been stretched to 7,290 yards while heavy rain made it play longer than that. Yet Weir stood tallest at the end of the week.
“I’m no bomber, that’s for sure,” said the Canadian, who ranked 39th in driving distance out of the 49 players to make the cut. “I have to make my wedge game work for me and rely on my putting and chipping and course management skills. I’m not going to have power on the golf course. But I feel like if you’re consistent, you have a good putter in your hand, that’s the equaliser.”
And who did Weir beat in a playoff? Another short hitter in Len Mattiace, who never came close to averaging 300 yards in his career. Fellow dunter Chris DiMarco took Tiger Woods to a playoff two years later.
How about Zach Johnson in 2007? He beat bombers Woods and Retief Goosen by two shots on a course that measured 7,445 yards.
“I don’t hit it very far,” Johnson said. “I don’t overpower a golf course, but I think I’m a pretty decent putter. At Augusta National, putting is a premium.”
It sure is. The name of the game is still getting the ball in the hole.
You might just want to look beyond the bombers this week when considering your Masters bets. The dunters can do it.
#JustSaying: “The man who can putt is a match for anyone. Willie Park Jr