Long-Drive Confidential: quattro bombardieri all-star su stereotipi a lunga percorrenza, punte di potenza e il dilemma della distanza del golf
MARICOPA, Ariz. — World Long Drive Tour stars don’t lack for muscle, but what’s on their minds? Last week, at the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun event just south of Phoenix, I picked the brains of four of the tour’s biggest names. Here’s what they think about big-hitter stereotypes, golf’s distance dilemma and which PGA Tour player would have the best chance of hanging on the Long Drive circuit.
1. What question are you most frequently asked when people find out you’re a long-drive guy?
Edward Joseph Fernandes, ball speed of 220 mph at 47 years old. Longest drive: 480 yards: “You’re not supposed to be hitting it that far at 47 years old, you old fart.” I take care of myself really well. And I love to compete. There’s something about competing with the younger guys that’s different than the Masters Division that I’m in as well. There’s just something different that I get an extra rush competing with these guys, and it just gets me going.
Paul Howell, current World No. 9. Longest drive: 460 yards: “Do you know Jamie Sadlowski? Is he still World No. 1?” That’s actually probably one of the biggest ones. And Jamie’s pursuing a golf career, so it kind of shows that we do have guys that can do that now. That’s pretty much the main one.
Will Hogue, former World No. 1, currently ranked No. 4. Longest drive: 483 yards: What’s my longest shot? Always is the first question. The second question would be, How long is your driver? Four hundred eighty-three yards is the longest ball I’ve ever hit in competition, and 48 inches is my driver length. Everything we use is USGA legal. They think we use [non-conforming] stuff, but we don’t.
Justin James, current World No 1. Longest drive: 476 yards: The stupidest question is, can you putt? Yeah, I’ve never heard that one. [Laughs] But people want to know how to hit it farther and kind of what we’re doing. And that’s what I think is so interesting about seeing this and the exposure Golf Channel’s given it is, again, when you have ball speeds that are 40 to 60 miles an hour faster than a PGA Tour player, there’s something to see there. And there are small applications to golfers across the world.
2. Long-drive specialists are often stereotyped as having bad short games. Is that warranted?
Fernandes: No. I went to PGA Tour qualifying five times, so I can play. I won a bunch of mini-tour events back from ’97 to 2004 and made second stage [of Q School] a few times. I was inducted into my high school and college halls of fame. So I was a pretty accomplished player. Hopefully I’ll get a chance in a couple of years to play some Champions tour events. We’ll see what happens.
Howell: A lot of these guys can play golf. I’m one of the guys. Eddie Fernandes is a good player. Justin James is a good player. I think we do get a bad rap sometimes, and I think that’s why we’re trying to incorporate pro-ams, so guys can kind of see, oh, he can drive it far, but, man, look at this guy’s short games, look at the way he chips. Because we’re really not all bad golfers. We’ve obviously got to be very precise when swinging as hard and fast as we do to hit the center of the club face. That shows a lot in our accuracy and the way we hit the golf ball.
Hogue: I think it depends on the long driver. If you look at Paul Howell, he’s a guy that’ll shoot 65 when we go out and play, so absolutely not. If you look at a guy like me, yeah, it’s just very much warranted. I’m not a bad golfer, but I’ll shoot 80. I’m your weekend warrior at golf; I play three or four times a year. I’ve got two of my own kids, I’ve got a full-time job [as a firefighter] and I do this. I don’t have time to play golf.
James: I don’t think for me. I think my short game’s pretty good. But some guys out here don’t have a good short game because they don’t play, and that’s okay. But a lot of the guys are really good players. Paul Howell’s good, Justin Moose is really good. So it just depends on which guy you talk to.
3. Which current Tour player do you think would have the best chance of making it as a long-drive competitor?
Fernandes: Oh, man. I think Tony Finau, Cameron Champ. I believe Cameron Champ’s on the Web.com tour, and he can hit it mid-190s. That’s pretty stellar. DJ, if he actually trained for it, I think Dustin can give it a run. But 130 miles an hour, 132 miles an hour, that speed is not going to get it done. These guys [out here] are putting it 145- and 150-plus. That’s kind of the range I’ve been in.
Howell: Man, that’s tough. There’s a lot of guys that have a lot of potential. DJ, I think, would have a good chance with his club that speed. Brooks Koepka. Bubba, because he likes to shape shots. I think the last one that I think could do a lot is Grayson Murray. I actually grew up playing golf with Grayson, so he’s always been there right tit for tat with me, and I think he would do a very good job hitting long-drive drivers.
Hogue: None of them. We play a different game. They are very precise, we get eight swings, and it’s raw horse power. It’s a similar sport, but it’s a different sport. The athletes that you see out here are not like the athletes that you see out there. We don’t have to put it in the hole, we don’t have do anything. We work specifically for this. It would be like, say, if you put Usain Bolt in a marathon, is he going to win? They’re like NASCAR, we’re like drag racing.
James: As it stands now, no way. If you give DJ a few years, or Rory, maybe. But their ball speed could get up to 190, and a lot of the guys are in the 220s out here. So it just doesn’t really work out, the math, right? He’s a great athlete, so I think Dustin Johnson, given time, could be competitive, but maybe not top end. A 48-inch driver, give him a year or so, and it would be interesting. Continue: http://www.golf.com/tour-news/2018/05/18/tour-confidential-long-drive-edition