Bad math
June 15, 2020

Monty calls for a 20-percent rollback of the ball. Here's what that actually would mean and why it doesn't add up

In reacting to Bryson DeChambeau’s feats of strength at the Charles Schwab Challenge, where DeChambeau averaged a staggering 340.1 yards off the tee while the field averaged 300.3 yards, Colin Montgomerie told BBC Radio last week, “I’m an advocate of what Jack Nicklaus proposes—a tournament ball for professionals, that goes only 80 to 85 percent as far.”

To which we respond: Really? Are you sure about that?

To be clear, I am not calling for an end to the distance debate. But ridiculous “solutions” such as what Montgomerie has put forth need be quashed, if for no other reason than, well, it makes absolutely no sense. Not necessarily the rollback part, although I personally am not in favor of any distance retraction (particularly one that would impact everyday golfers). It’s the amount he wants to roll it back.

Let’s just do some pure math. DeChambeau leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, averaging 323.8 yards off the tee. Now lop 20 percent off that and the driving distance leader on tour is averaging … wait for it … 259.04 yards. I’m sure such a display of “firepower” off the tee will excite golf fans everywhere.

Now let’s take the tour’s overall 296.4-yard average. Take back 20 percent, and it drops to 237.12. Or about the length of the shortest hitter on the LPGA Tour in 2019. And what about poor David Lingmerth, who ranks last on the PGA Tour at 275.4 yards? That drops to 220.32 yards—or shorter than, well, me. And plenty of other everyday players. Not exactly the kind of numbers that tend to enthrall golf fans who tune in to see the pros do that which they cannot. A 20-percent reduction in the ball eliminates a good portion of that.

And although there is no firm answer, it’s not a stretch to think that although the longer hitters would suffer a greater loss of distance if going by a strict percentage, they still would be considerably longer than the short hitters. So while now DeChambeau might have gap wedge and Matt Kuchar a 9-iron or 8-iron, that’s at least somewhat of a fair fight. Bryson with an 8-iron and Kooch with a 4- or 5-iron might be a different story.

Oh, and one last thought on DeChambeau. He didn’t win. The guy who finished 22nd in driving distance did. In a playoff with the guy who ranked T-45 in distance for the week. Even we can do that math.

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