What A Difference A Week Makes...

PGA Tour logo.jpgThe updated PGA Tour driving distance stats showed another week of gains, with the entire Tour picking up a yard on average. Now, Firestone was firm and Reno was played well above sea level, skewing the numbers just as the soft conditions during the first half of the season impacted the averages. (The early season decline didn't stop many from pointing the 7-yard dip as a sign that the USGA had control of the equipment).

This week's jump, based on just 8 drives:

  • Tiger went from 313. 8 yards to 315.2 (he finished last year at 301.9)
  • Kenny Perry went from 302.8 to 304.1
  • John Daly (looking svelte these days) went from 307.0 to 308.5
  • Sergio Garcia went from 300.4 to 301.9
  • Davis Love from 302.3 to 304.3 (but he can't hit a 1-iron from 238!?)

But the 2005 average has now just barely surpassed the 2004 average. Without deluges during the first half of the season, might we have seen a year-long distance increase significant enough to fall under the definition of the USGA/R&A Joint Statement of Principles?

Now to the Joint Statement, which was issued May 1, 2002. Here's the key line: usga logo.gif

The R&A and the USGA believe, however, that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge ofra_header_title.jpg the game. The consequential lengthening or toughening of courses would be costly or impossible and would have a negative effect on increasingly important environmental and ecological issues. Pace of play would be slowed and playing costs would increase.
The median PGA Tour drive has increased nearly 7 yards since 2002.  Several players have gradually picked up substantial yardage (Sergio: 278.3 in 2000, 290.5 in 2002, 301.9 in 2005) while others have made the big jump this year (Davis Love 288.7 in 2000, 287.7 in 2002, 304.3 in 2005).

So ultimately for the USGA, R&A and PGA Tour, it all depends on what the significance of "significant" is.