Distance debate
July 15, 2020

Bryson DeChambeau on talk of scaling back distance: 'They can't take working out away from me'

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Gregory Shamus

Bryson DeChambeau hits a drive during his victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

DUBLIN, Ohio — Bryson DeChambeau is forcing golf to reconsider its rules. It might sound dramatic, but it’s demonstrably true.

After he averaged 350 yards off the tee and won the Rocket Mortgage Classic two weeks ago, R&A chief Martin Slumbers was asked the most en vogue question in golf: What are your thoughts on what Bryson DeChambeau is doing?

“All credit to him; he’s a true athlete,” Slumbers told the Daily Mail. “But I still come back to the belief that golf is a game of skill. And we believe we need to get this balance of skill and technology right.

“Once we feel that the industry is stable again—which isn’t going to be tomorrow, because we don’t know what’s going to happen over autumn and winter—we will be coming back to that issue in great seriousness.”

The issue he’s referring to, of course, is the long-running debate over whether modern technology has changed golf’s integrity by making it too easy to hit the ball far and straight.

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Ahead of this week’s Memorial Tournament, where DeChambeau is the clear Vegas favorite in a field that features nine of the top 10 players in the world, No. 7-ranked DeChambeau was asked whether he’d be upset if his distance explosion resulted in rule changes to limit his greatest strength.

“No, I wouldn't,” he said. “No matter what rules they give me, Im going to try and do my best to maximize my athletic ability.

“They cant take working out away from me. I know that.”

He continued: “Im, again, just going to look at my game and how I can improve it in the best way possible, no matter if they roll the ball back theres still going to be a percentage difference. Even if it gets rolled back theres still going to be a gap. Whether its closer now, it is what it is. Im not really worried about it. Im just going to keep trying to make those athletic gains so that I can be the best golfer that I can possibly be.”

DeChambeau leads the tour with an average driving distance of 323 yards, which would be the longest average in the history of the PGA Tour if he sustained it for the season. And of the 42 rounds measured for that statistic, the majority of them came before he returned from the COVID-19 hiatus at 250 pounds and routinely swinging the driver 190 miles per hour. That number seems like it will only continue to increase as the year wears on.

Until one of his peers can increase their swing speed to match his, there’s good reason to believe he’ll continue to lead the tour in that category. If Slumbers has his way, future leading averages might be well below that 323 figure. But he can’t stop DeChambeau from being the pace-setter.

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