When it comes to driving distance there's a new sheriff in town and it's not the current US Open champion
For all the talk of Bryson DeChambeau and his driving heroics you’d think that he was knocking it 20 yards past everyone. Even at the US Open at Winged Foot, where he took the field apart, he was only down in seventh place for Driving Distance.
This week at The Masters he’s in second spot, averaging a miserly 327.9 yards off the tee. Next on the list, admittedly nearly 10 yards back are the likes of Gary Woodland, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.
But the top dog for distance is Cameron Champ who is averaging 333.8 yards and, over the first two rounds, he’s hit six more (21/28) fairways than his countryman.
It might be measured over just two holes, the 5th and 15th, but we’ve known about the 25-year-old’s length for some time now. In the 2017 Walker Cup, where he would partner no less than fellow Masters hopefuls Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler, he would come up against Bob MacIntyre twice in the singles. The Scot won 6&4 on the first day before getting a half on the Sunday.
“I gave him a good seeing to there (laughs)! He was consistently 50-80 yards ahead of me and so straight, I couldn’t even think about playing the guy. So I had to play the course. If we both played our best then I would probably lose as he was hitting shorter irons in but the chances of him playing great when I’m playing great are slimmer as I was always hitting in first and putting so much pressure on him,” explained the Scot.
“In the return it was some match, on the last I hit it three feet by and smiled at him and I thought, ‘Come on, just give us that!’ He did. He’s a really nice guy.”
Jack Singh Brar would play him in the opening foursomes and Champ left a lasting impression on him.
“I remember hoping that I wasn’t teeing up with him, I’m not that long and I’d heard that this dude was long. On the 2nd it’s quite a demanding tee shot and you can’t really go right from 290-320. I hit a good drive to leave Scott Gregory a 5-iron in, Cameron hit this spinny cut and I thought he’s dead but he was so far up there and he left his partner a wedge in.”
This week, in his second Masters after a tie for 19th in November, his effortless power is reaping some big rewards but there’s no talk of any added bulk or lengthened drivers.
“I hit it plenty far. I’m not trying to get anything else out of it. To me once you start doing that you’re just going to hit it everywhere and not be able to control it. I use a 43-and-a-quarter-inch driver. That’s about two inches shorter than standard. That’s just how I play. This is how I play the game. I’m not going to adjust it based on if other people are hitting it further or if I feel like I need to hit it further. To me this is what works.”
For a small insight into how his length can help reduce the par 5s to not very much at all, Champ left himself 148 yards in to the 13th on Friday while at the 2nd he managed to get his tee shot over the crest of the hill to leave a mid iron in. His only real blemish has come when he four-putted the 3rd from around 15 feet, his fourth putt being at least five feet.
Champ was quizzed at the start of the week over any DeChambeau-type silly lines off the tee and, again, he’ll be playing within himself, if that’s possible for someone who hits it such colossal distances.
“If it’s calm, I just hit driver just over the bunker (at the 1st), but it’s all dependent on wind. Usually, I’ll just hit 3-wood just left of it, but if it’s calm or even a slight touch of help, I’ll hit driver.”
As for the 11th, the hardest hole on the property, he was asked whether he had considered the Bryson assault of taking it over the trees on the right.
“I don’t know. I hit a good one and I hit 9-iron in. I just like hit my little cut up the centre. So to me, it’s just get it in the fairway and get out.”