Stephen Ames birdied the 17th hole and closed with a 5-under 67 on Sunday for a one-shot victory over Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly in the Principal Charity Classic, giving Ames his third PGA Tour Champions title this year.
The surprising downside of being one of the game’s longest bombers
What would it be like to be capable of hitting the ball 400 yards off the tee? For 26-year-old South African James Hart du Preez, it’s just another swing with the driver.
Du Preez has an astonishing stature for a professional golfer: 6’9″ and 260 lbs. He averaged over 373 yards in driving distance on the Sunshine Tour last year, and recently showcased his talents on the PGA Tour for the first time as a sponsor’s exemption at The American Express in January.
While it seems like his prodigious length should make the game infinitely simpler, Du Preez insists that’s not the case. On this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, Du Preez discussed the surprising downside of being one of the game’s longest bombers.
“Knowing that you have that capacity [to carry a bunker 385 yards away] is really cool,” Du Preez said. “I was speaking to Bryson [DeChambeau] this morning about the fact that we have this speed now, and it’s really, really cool, but there’s a reason that the best players in the world operate at certain speeds.”
Du Preez’s everyday ball speed is around 202 mph, while his clubhead speed is 136 mph — unfathomable numbers for recreational players, and even most of Du Preez’s fellow professionals. But therein lies the additional challenge for players like Du Preez and DeChambeau, he said.
“At what point are you gonna say, I’m going to drive this Ferrari in second gear because I can keep it on the road?” Du Preez mused. “At these speeds, you’re hitting shots that people are like, you’re a professional golfer, what are you doing? But the margins are so, so small.”
Du Preez said that in his recent conversation with DeChambeau he learned that, at ultra-high speeds like theirs, slight mishits are magnified more intensely due to ball and club construction.
“At our speeds, with the way in which these balls are made, seven out of 15 shots don’t operate according to the gear law,” Du Preez said, referring to the common assumption that shots on the heel start left and come back while shots on the toe start right and come back. “So if you hit 15 shots off the toe at 200 mph ball speed, seven of them will draw back, eight of them will start right, go right. Which makes no sense. But no one understands what happens at our speed.”
For more from Du Preez, including his jaw-dropping carry distances with every club, and what he feels like he needs to work on in order to be successful on Tour, check out the full interview below.