After blasting five balls beyond 400 yards on Tuesday’s opening day of the Professional Long Drivers Association’s World Championship, Bryson DeChambeau ran into a mean headwind Wednesday.
Didn’t matter. Long is relative, and all 64 players struggled on Day 2 as gusts blew across the grid in Mesquite, Nevada, keeping every player in the field under 385 yards.
And despite it being just his second day of long-drive competition, DeChambeau managed to finish in second place in points in his group to advance to Thursday’s round of 32. The top eight players in each of the four groups moved on.
Next up: Those 32 who advanced will keep swinging Thursday, with the top 16 making it to Friday’s final round, when a world champion will be crowned. Players will compete for points in three groups Thursday, with the top 5 in each group advancing, as well as one player not in the top 5 in his group but who survives a wild-card round.
Whack it like Bryson…unweight lead foot going back. Push down into both feet as you shallow club coming down. Jump out of the way at impact. Go to the gym lots n dedicate your life to golf. #respect pic.twitter.com/cj0dN8E5Wx
— Jonathan Yarwood (@JonathanYarwood) September 30, 2021
DeChambeau – the 2020 U.S. Open champion – saw his longest drive Wednesday sail 355 yards into the gusty headwinds, 57 yards shorter than his longest blast of 412 yards Tuesday. But that kind of wind might give the PGA Tour star and seventh-ranked player in the world – at golf golf, not long-ball – a bit of an advantage in his quest to make Friday’s final 16.
Relatively speaking in comparison to much of the long-drive field, DeChambeau is accustomed to playing shots, not just bashing balls. If a player swings slightly slower and produces less speed than his rivals but manages to control the spin on the ball and nail the perfect trajectory, his shots might bound past his competitors’. And in a weird twist of the universe, in this long-ball field DeChambeau is actually one of the more accurate drivers, landing most of his shots on the grid.
All this could play to DeChambeau’s strengths as the competition moves into Day 3. If the wind blows into the players again and the fastest swingers struggle to keep balls from spinning too much and missing the grid, DeChambeau could continue to pass dedicated long-ball specialists with much more experience.
Keep in mind, all this is new to DeChambeau, winner of eight PGA Tour events. He even has a new club in his hands to max out his yardage. He’s swinging a 48-inch Cobra RADSpeed driver with an LA Golf Tour AXS Blue shaft – designed to create a low-spin, low-loft launch – that has been tipped an inch, making it even stiffer. On Tour he normally swings a Cobra driver that is less than 46 inches and much easier to control.
Win or lose, or even fail to qualify for Friday’s final round, the longest player on the PGA Tour in the recently concluded 2020-21 season seemed to be enjoying the basher-fest. He kept pumping up the crowd as his group kept slashing, waving his arms for the crowd to make some noise. It was reminiscent of the high-energy workout videos DeChambeau has posted to social media, trying to build as much energy as possible with a boost of noise.
It’s worth noting, this is the same DeChambeau who helped the U.S. team lock up a victory in the Ryder Cup on Sunday at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Again, that was real golf. Long-ball is entirely different – instead of laying his putter down in complaint about a putt that isn’t conceded in match play, the 28-year-old can leave the flatstick at home.
It’s no surprise, of course, that DeChambeau is long. He led the PGA Tour in the 2021 season with a 323.7-yard driving average. His longest drive on Tour in that season was 414 yards. His average measured clubhead speed on drives was 132.25 mph, but he has said he can go faster in training. The top players in elite long-drive competitions frequently surpass 140 mph in clubhead speed.
The best ball Wednesday came from Jim Waldron, who blasted one 384 yards when the wind slowed just a bit for Group C during the early afternoon. It was a far cry from Tuesday when dozens of balls sailed past 400 yards.
Kyle Berkshire, the defending champion after winning the event in 2019 and the 2020 competition having been canceled because of COVID-19, had the longest drive in Group A on Wednesday, sending a ball 328 yards into a stiff breeze across the morning’s relatively damp grid. For comparison’s sake, Berkshire hit the longest ball Tuesday, a 455-yarder. That’s a 127-yard difference based mainly on wind direction.
LIFTOFF on day 2 at the World Long Drive Championships.
Today, we’ll chop the field from 64 to 32. Bryson tees off at 3:45 p.m. local time, but enjoy this blast from Kyle Berkshire in the meantime. pic.twitter.com/ZqxZwasE8y
— James Colgan (@jamescolgan26) September 29, 2021
And despite his recent dominance of long-drive, Berkshire took time during Wednesday’s livestream of the event on Youtube to praise DeChambeau.
“What he’s doing is obviously wonderful for the sport,” Berkshire said, as reported by PGATour.com. “He’s a good guy. He has a very altruistic desire to help the sport out. It’s great to have someone appreciate what the guys can do out here. He took a big leap of faith and put himself in a vulnerable position to compete out here, and he’s backed it up with his performance. He’s doing the PGA Tour really proud. …
“If he comes out and wins a set or two tomorrow, which I think he can do especially getting so many balls in play, he absolutely has a great chance to advance further.”