Twenty Years Later

Thomas Bonk looked at the anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' Masters win and offered this perspective on changes in the game.

And Nicklaus' Masters victory in 1986 clearly represents the end of an era in more ways than money.

The two most important pieces of equipment in golf were going to take on a drastic new look.

It wasn't until 1991 that Callaway Golf revolutionized drivers with the large-headed Big Bertha, shoving into the back of the closet the flat-faced, unforgiving block of persimmon wood on a steel shaft.

And it was in 2003 when Titleist brought out its Pro V1 ball. A three-piece ball instead of a wound ball, and with a thinner cover, the Pro V1 was immediately hailed for its greater control, better feel, improved trajectory and longer flight.

The combination of driver and ball has altered golf's landscape, perhaps forever.

In 1986, Nicklaus averaged 266.4 yards off the tee. A 22-year-old Davis Love III led the driving statistics, averaging 285.7 yards and the PGA Tour average drive was 261.6 yards. The 190th and last-ranked player in driving distance this year is Brad Faxon at 260.7 yards. Love is ranked 27th in driving, averaging 299.3 yards, but 23 players are averaging more than 300 yards.

Woods, by the way, is eighth, with a 304.8-yard average. Bubba Watson is hitting it farther than anyone, averaging 320.9 yards, and the average PGA Tour pro drives the ball 289 yards — about 27 yards farther than the average pro in 1986. And Watson's lead over what Love averaged in 1986 is more than 38 yards.

Don't think these kind of numbers have been overlooked. Just check the numbers at Augusta National. In 1986 when Nicklaus won, it was listed on the scorecard he kept at 6,905 yards. In a couple of weeks, they're going to play a course that's 7,445 yards and has been lengthened for the third time in seven years.