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Bubba Watson drove it more than 300 yards 63.57% of the time in 2012.


it in 99.79% of the time. From seven feet he drained 74.35%. From 10 feet Don- ald made 58.82%. Another stat that will make your face melt: Jonas Blixt got up-and- down from greenside bunkers 65.44% of the time. And we’re talking about nasty bunkers, tucked pins and greens as fast as ice. Yet for all the ways we


to smash-mouth power. Go sit in a steam room for half an hour, then spend another half-hour stretch- ing, then take your driver and swing it as hard as you can. Cartoonishly hard. No ball, no target, just swing at imaginary butterflies. Before you hurt yourself you might reach 105 miles per hour of clubhead speed. If you’re very tall and an exceptional athlete, maybe 110. The PGA Tour aver- age is around 112 miles per hour…and that’s under tournament conditions, driving the ball on a string. Gary Woodland has topped 130 miles per hour. In com- petition, not his backyard. This translates into mind- boggling distance. A really long scratch golfer might drive it 285 yards once in a while. So far this year the Tour average is 287.9, and that includes plenty of


times when players throttled back with a 3-wood or 3-iron. A crazy-long club champion-type might pop a 300-yard drive every now and then. Last year Bubba Watson drove it more than 300 yards on 63.57% of his drives. More than a third traveled farther than 320. Not surprisingly, on more than 80% of the par 5s Watson played he tried to get home in two. A well- bunkered 520-yard hole for a scratch player is likely a three-shotter. If he’s really long and feeling frisky, it’s driver, 3-wood. For a lot of pros that same hole is driver, 9-iron. The simple fact is that there is no golf course in the world that is long enough to truly chal- lenge the pros tee to green. To make them play par 5s as three-shot holes, to have long-irons or hybrids into a good number of par 4s or


par 3s, we would need to build a course that is 9,000 yards long. Maybe longer. To even the best amateurs, 7,500 yards is a monster. To pros, it’s become ab- surdly short. Of course, for all the amazing things pros do to a golf ball the biggest difference between them and even the best amateurs is on and around the greens. A scratch golfer is likely to miss a three-foot putt at least once a round. In 2012 Luke Donald missed one three-footer all freaking sea- son, making 484 out of 485. These are greens rolling 13 or 14 on the Stimpmeter, with hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on many of these putts, and God and Johnny Miller bearing wit- ness, and Donald brushed


can quantify and catalogue a Tour player’s supremacy, maybe the biggest single difference between them and us is their expectation of success. For amateurs, even the very best, every swing is fraught with peril. Success is measured in how much we minimize the damage. For pros, every hole, every shot, is an opportunity to excel. Birdies are not celebrated, they’re expected. This is an entirely different worldview. An old editor of mine


who played off scratch once teed it up with Jack Nick- laus in Florida on the course where the Bear made his home. Nicklaus birdied the first hole, eagled the second, birdied the third, birdied the fourth, and then birdied the fifth. His house was near the sixth tee. “Let’s go in and get a sandwich,” Nicklaus said. They never made it back to the golf course to finish the round. “My whole life I’ve dreamed of starting a round like that,” my editor said. “And you know what, Jack cared a helluva lot more about his lunch.”


ALAN SHIPNUCK is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and writes two weekly columns for golf.com.


SPRING 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 39


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