But what about the shortest?

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Bryson DeChambeau during the U.S. Open in September.

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Dan Pohl, in 1980, averaged 274.3 yards per drive, the highest on the PGA Tour. On the other end of the tee box, Michael Brannan averaged 238.7, the lowest on Tour. A 35.6-yard difference.

In the 2020 season, that margin was 44.2. 

In 2005, it was 60.2. 

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As the Tour begins 2021 play next week at the Tournament of Champions, its longest drivers are hitting it longer. The shortest are, too. But the gap between biggest and smallest has also grown. 

In a look at driving-distance statistics since 1980, when the Tour began tracking the data, the average driving distance of the shortest hitter has increased by as much as 41 yards — in 2018, Brian Stuard averaged 278.9 yards, and, in 1994, Stan Utley averaged 237.9. Overall, the growth has been steady. It jumped in the early 2000s due to equipment technology, and in the 2020 season, Andrew Putnam hit 277.9 per drive.

Which would have led the Tour in distance four times.

Over the past 40 years, the average of the longest hitter has also risen, by as much as 47.8 yards — in 2020, Bryson DeChambeau averaged 322.1 yards, and, in 1980, Pohl averaged the 274.3. Much like the shortest hitter average, the longest hitter growth has been constant, with a similar jump in the 2000s. In fact, the stock yardage on DeChambeau’s 4-hybrid (275, according to GolfTV) would have led the Tour in distance in 1980.    

The distance between the long and short hitters has also grown. 

The smallest gap was 35.3 yards, in 1984 (Bill Glasson was longest, at 276.5 yards, and Bill Rogers was shortest, at 241.2 yards), while the biggest gap was 60.2 yards, in 2005 (Scott Hend was longest, at 318.9, and Corey Pavin was shortest, at 258.7). The margin did shrink to 35.8 in 2013 (Luke List at 306.3 and Mike Weir at 270.5) before rising to the 44.2 of last season. 

All of which will likely be continued to be debated in 2021. 

Last February, the United States Golf Association and the R&A released the Distance Insights Report, a summary of what they believe to be golf’s distance problem. The report suggested that increased hitting distances are hurting the game, and while it did not give specific solutions, it did suggest such things as the potential for new conformance tests for clubs and balls, and a local rule that would allow courses to require limited-flight equipment. Over the summer, R&A executive director Martin Slumbers told Sportsmail that the report would continue. 

At the Memorial in July, Jack Nicklaus said “the USGA has got to wake up sooner or later, the R&A.”

“They can’t keep burying their heads to this,” Nicklaus said during the Golf Channel’s broadcast of the tournament. “They see it, they watch television, they see where these guys hit the golf ball. It isn’t about how far they hit it. You just can’t keep making golf courses longer. You just don’t have enough land. You don’t have enough money to do it. 

“And the golf ball is a very, very simple thing to fix. And I’ve been preaching about it, good gracious, I’ve been preaching about it now – 43 years I first went to the USGA. I mean, that’s a long time to be saying, ‘Well, we’re studying it.’ Guys, stop studying. Do something, will you please?”

The distance breakdown

1980
Shortest hitter: Michael Brannan, 238.7
Longest hitter: Dan Pohl, 274.3
Difference: 35.6
Tour average: 256.5

1981
Shortest hitter: Rik Massengale, 242.3
Longest hitter: Dan Pohl, 280.1
Difference: 37.8
Tour average: 259.3

1982
Shortest hitter: Michael Brannan, 238.5
Longest hitter: Bill Calfee, 275.3
Difference: 36.8
Tour average: 256.2

1983
Shortest hitter: Michael Brannan, 241.1
Longest hitter: John McComish, 277.4
Difference: 36.3
Tour average: 258.1

1984
Shortest hitter: Bill Rogers, 241.2
Longest hitter: Bill Glasson, 276.5
Difference: 35.3
Tour average: 259.1

1985
Shortest hitter: Tom Jenkins, 241.7
Longest hitter: Andy Bean, 278.2
Difference: 36.5
Tour average: 259.7

1986
Shortest hitter: Jack Renner, 243.4
Longest hitter: Davis Love III, 285.7
Difference: 42.3
Tour average: 261.1

1987
Shortest hitter: Bob Murphy, 244.2
Longest hitter: John McComish, 283.9
Difference: 39.7
Tour average: 262.0

1988
Shortest hitter: Jack Renner, 246.2
Longest hitter: Steve Thomas, 284.6
Difference: 38.4
Tour average: 262.9

1989
Shortest hitter: Morris Hatalsky, 245.5
Longest hitter: Ed Humenik, 280.9
Difference: 35.4
Tour average: 261.1

1990
Shortest hitter: Calvin Peete, 244.2
Longest hitter: Tom Purtzer, 279.6
Difference: 35.4
Tour average: 262.3

1991
Shortest hitter: Scott Verplank, 240.8
Longest hitter: John Daly, 288.9
Difference: 48.1
Tour average: 260.7

1992
Shortest hitter: Ed Fiori, 240.6
Longest hitter: John Daly, 283.4
Difference: 42.8
Tour average: 260.2

1993
Shortest hitter: David Delong, 240.9
Longest hitter: John Daly, 288.9
Difference: 48.0
Tour average: 259.8

1994
Shortest hitter: Stan Utley, 237.9
Longest hitter: Davis Love III, 283.8
Difference: 45.9
Tour average: 261.2

1995
Shortest hitter: Bill Britton, 246.6
Longest hitter: John Daly, 289.0
Difference: 42.4
Tour average: 262.7

1996
Shortest hitter: Ed Fiori, 239.5
Longest hitter: John Daly, 288.8
Difference: 49.3
Tour average: 265.9

1997
Shortest hitter: Ed Fiori, 244.8
Longest hitter: John Daly, 302.0
Difference: 57.2
Tour average: 267.3

1998
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 249.0
Longest hitter: John Daly, 299.4
Difference: 50.4
Tour average: 270.2

1999
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 252.5
Longest hitter: John Daly, 305.6
Difference: 53.1
Tour average: 271.6

2000
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 251.3 
Longest hitter: John Daly, 301.4
Difference: 50.1
Tour average: 272.7

2001
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 252.7 
Longest hitter: John Daly, 306.7
Difference: 54
Tour average: 278.8

2002
Shortest hitter: Pete Jordan, 256.6
Longest hitter: John Daly, 306.8
Difference: 54
Tour average: 279.5

2003
Shortest hitter: Loren Roberts, 265.9
Longest hitter: Hank Kuehne, 321.4
Difference: 55.5
Tour average: 285.9

2004
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 268.2
Longest hitter: Hank Kuehne, 314.4
Difference: 46.2
Tour average: 286.5

2005
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 258.7
Longest hitter: Scott Hend, 318.9
Difference: 60.2
Tour average: 288.4

2006
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 265.9
Longest hitter: Bubba Watson, 319.6
Difference: 53.7
Tour average: 288.9

2007
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 265.3
Longest hitter: Bubba Watson, 315.2
Difference: 49.9
Tour average: 288.6

2008
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 261.4
Longest hitter: Bubba Watson, 315.1
Difference: 53.7
Tour average: 287.3

2009
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin, 259.0
Longest hitter: Robert Garrigus, 312.0
Difference: 53
Tour average: 287.9

2010
Shortest hitter: Brian Gay, 266.4
Longest hitter: Robert Garrigus, 315.5
Difference: 49.1
Tour average: 287.3

2011
Shortest hitter: Brian Gay, 269.8
Longest hitter: J.B. Holmes, 318.4
Difference: 48.6
Tour average: 290.9

2012
Shortest hitter: Nick O’Hern, 268.9
Longest hitter: Bubba Watson, 315.5
Difference: 46.6
Tour average: 289.1

2013
Shortest hitter: Mike Weir, 270.5
Longest hitter: Luke List, 306.3
Difference: 35.8
Tour average: 287.2

2014
Shortest hitter: Justin Leonard, 270.3
Longest hitter: Bubba Watson, 314.3
Difference: 44
Tour average: 288.8

2015
Shortest hitter: David Toms, 270.0
Longest hitter: Dustin Johnson, 317.7
Difference: 47.7
Tour average: 289.7

2016
Shortest hitter: Colt Knost, 269.7
Longest hitter: J.B. Holmes, 314.5
Difference: 44.8
Tour average: 290.0

2017
Shortest hitter: Jim Furyk, 271.4
Longest hitter: Rory McIlroy, 317.2
Difference: 45.8
Tour average: 292.5

2018
Shortest hitter: Brian Stuard, 278.9
Longest hitter: Rory McIlroy, 319.7
Difference: 40.8
Tour average: 296.1

2019
Shortest hitter: Scott Langley, 271.3
Longest hitter: Cameron Champ, 317.9
Difference: 46.6
Tour average: 293.9

2020
Shortest hitter: Andrew Putnam, 277.9
Longest hitter: Bryson DeChambeau, 322.1
Difference: 44.2
Tour average: 296.4

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor


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