I couldn't disagree more with my GolfDigest.com colleague Joel Beall who felt robbed watching the World Long Drive Championship, suggesting what he saw reinforced why it's a "fringe event." He also suggests the Long Drive needs new presentation and format ideas, but as someone whose watched the event the last few years, including in person in 2013, I'd counter that the extended match play format had players better prepared when we got to the final nights. I just wish the landing grid was about 10 yards wider.
But more to the big picture status of the event: I love Long Drive because it genuine presents real athletes using their athleticism in a different way than PGA Tour players, featuring real stories of golfers doing amazing things to a ball. Beall is right that some of the PGA Tour driving distances make today's 400-yarders in the Long Drive seem less impressive, but considering the contest faced some headwinds, I found the numbers pretty astounding.
It's also refreshing to see different forms of golf succeed beyond the weekly stroke play. But golf is so tradition-based and uptight that the theatrics presented in the Long Drive make many uncomfortable. I get that. But as a lover of tradition, I'm also open to anything that shows how golf can be embraced in divergent ways that ultimately are about exposing us to people of extraordinary skill.
Meanwhile, the news was positive for new Long Drive owner Golf Channel, as Tuesday's rating for the live Round of 16 was up 263% over 2014, while the final night saw a 43% increase over 2014. Both ratings were in the vicinity of last week's Frys.com Open numbers. With replays and NBC airing in December, the Long Drive will be seen by many more eyeballs than any of the fall PGA Tour events.
Here is GolfChannel.com's video of the final match won by Tim Burke, now a two-time long drive champion.