My Five: Golf's Best Power Hitters

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My Five: Golf's Best Power Hitters

May 24, 2011

Photo By: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Photo By: AP Photo

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

Photo By: AP Photo

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

John DalyExcept for the all-time records, in both physical and personal style, golf's version of Babe Ruth. Daly's truly exceptional athletic talent allowed him to harness one of the longest backswings ever seen into a repeatable and incredibly powerful action through the ball. In his dominating victory at the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick, Daly put on the most impressive one-tournament driving exhibition in the history of the game. He consistently drove the ball 50 yards past his playing partners, and carried doglegs to reduce his approach on supposedly fearsome par fours to a short pitch. He went on to lead the PGA Tour in driving distance a record 11 of the next 12 years, but the projections that Daly would use his advantage in length to take over the game never materialized.

Photo By: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

George BayerAt 6-6, 250 pounds with long arms, Bayer was a former varsity football and basketball player at the University of Washington who became the indisputably longest hitter of the 1950s and 1960s. He won four times on the PGA Tour, including the 1957 Canadian Open, and finished 14th on the money list in 1962. But Bayer got attention for the way he could bash his driver, an extra-deep faced persimmon model made by MacGregor. Bayer routinely hit the ball 300 yards in the days when the average drive on tour was in the 250 range, and had two drives in competition measured at 420 yards. In his first year on tour, Bayer won 15 of 16 driving contests, his domination eventually leading to the end of the once popular competitions.

Photo By: AP Photo

Davis Love IIIWhen Love emerged on the PGA Tour in 1986, it ended any debate about who was the game's longest hitter. He led the tour in distance with a then record 285.7 average with a persimmon-headed driver he continued using after nearly everyone else switched to metal. Given great fundamentals by his teaching pro father, the 6-3 Love has employed an exceptionally wide arc to produce effortless power. "It's a swing that's powerful and pretty at the same time," said Ben Crenshaw. As a kid, the always skinny Love got golf strong hitting thousands of balls holding on to the club with only his left hand, saying "it's the pulling motion that makes the club go so fast." Love always downplayed his length, opting to build his all-around game. Of golf's longest hitters, he has the most victories with 20, including one major.

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

Jimmy ThomsonBorn in North Berwick, Scotland, Thomson loved bashing the ball around the town's famous links, later saying, "I concentrated on driving to the exclusion of everything else when I was a kid." Growing into a broad-shouldered physical powerhouse, he became the first true long-driving phenomena, winning exhibitions with clouts as long as 386 yards. Thomson was a good player, winning the 1938 Los Angeles Open and finishing second in the 1935 U.S. Open and the 1936 PGA Championship. But like many of the big hitters who followed him, Thomson too often allowed his power to impede his course management. He wrote a book, "Hit 'Em for Miles: How to Drive a Golf Ball."

Photo By: AP Photo

Bubba WatsonAlthough a Splendid Splinter to Daly's Bambino, also a physical phenomena. Creating a bigger arc than Love and nearly as long a backswing as Daly, the 6-4 Watson's uncoiling toward the target is off the charts in its speed and breadth. What makes Watson more than just a bomber is the uncanny control of the clubhead he achieves with a completely self-taught swing. He loves shaping shots off the tee, and while his nuked high draws can approach 400 yards, it's the low cut that finds the fairway with startling regularity that makes him a threat in majors. After leading the Nationwide Tour in driving distance with an audacious 334 yard average, Watson won three distance titles on the PGA Tour. But since gearing down slightly, he's won three tournaments.

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

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