Is The Driver Obsolete on Tour?
First of all, I was so happy to see Phil Mickelson win The Open Championship this weekend. Phil comes across as the most genuine, humble and fan-centric player among the elite, and is a role model for how the younger guns should embrace the unbelievable opportunity they have to play this game for a living. And after his heart-breaking loss at the U.S. Open last month, he just deserved this, in my mind at least.
Muirfield was certainly a different kind of test than was presented by Merion. That fast track could not have been a starker contrast to the soft conditions last month. But what struck me as most interesting about these two events is how Phil chose to forego a driver in his bag, so that he could carry five wedges. Getting more accuracy in prime scoring range, at the cost of a very few yards off the tee paid off. And he was only a swing or two, a putt or two, away from having both Open trophies in his case right now.
So that begs the question – Could the driver be rendered obsolete on the PGA Tour? If other courses began to make the players choose accuracy over distance it sure could. At most routine tour events, the rough is not that punishing and the fairways are generous, so these guys can bomb it out there as far as they can, hitting not more than 55-65% of the fairways and still shoot lights out. But what if they took something more like the Merion or Muirfield route? What if fairways averaged something under 24 yards in width, rough was penalizing and bunkers were nasty places you do not want to be? What if something around par or a few under for 72 holes became the norm, and 15-25 under par became very, very rare?
Would television audiences fade? Do they just want to see these guys light it up? Or do they want to see them work hard for pars ... like most of us have to?
But back to the driver question. Phil is carrying a pretty hot 3-wood, about 13.5 loft and 43" or more in length. That's really close to driver specs of a few decades ago. But with the technology in the club, shaft and ball, and the bigger athlete now playing the game, is anything more really required? I would bet the average recreational golfer of 8 handicap or higher would hit a club like that further on average and much straighter than they do their current driver. And 5-irons from the fairway are much easier shots than 6- or 7-irons from the rough.
The other advantage of dropping the driver is that you can carry more scoring clubs, to give you more options and improved precision in scoring range.
So, why don't you guys all weigh in on these two questions?
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[ comments ]
I have just started using my driver on holes that require it usually goes left sometimes a long way left (adjacent fairways left) but even with that the scores are better (your wedges to thank for that)
the people will always watch golf on tv. they want people to play well pick up the hints given by the commentators and they want them to play like they play they miss long, short. left and right miss fairways and put balls in water just like they do and it makes them feel good. I've said it before put the PGA is choosy about which courses it lets it top 125 members play Its almost as if they want them to score 20+ under after 4 rounds.
A few years ago I got frustrated with not getting my drives into the fairway. I dropped down to a 14 degree tri-metal and things got a lot better (5-7 strokes). Even with the improvement, I struggle to keep the driver in the bag, though. The idea of seeing a ball fly 300-320 off the tee is too enticing.
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