When Bryson DeChambeau stepped to the tee at the par-5, 605-yard 5th hole at Whistling Straits during the Ryder Cup's afternoon session on Friday and belted a prodigious 417-yard drive, it sent several messages:
- The U.S. was more than ready to play in 2021 after losing seven of the previous nine Ryder Cup matches.
- DeChambeau's process to hit the ball as far as possible on nearly every shot was working.
- And, most importantly, he was more than ready to take on the world’s best long drivers during the Professional Long Driver’s Association World Championships in Mesquite, Nev., a golf and gaming destination located about 77 miles north of Las Vegas.
To be sure, there’s always a ton of rhetoric and opinion surrounding DeChambeau.
It’s easy fodder.
He’s arrogant. He’s detached. He’s this. He’s that.
But what cannot be denied is the fact he’s committed to his process and won’t let anything — or anyone — alter his beliefs. The drive at the Ryder Cup was a microcosm of that commitment.
So, enter the latest chapter for DeChambeau, who travels to Mesquite to go head-to-head with long drivers such as Kyle Berkshire, the reigning world champion, Justin James and Scottie Pearman.
His first action on the Mesquite Regional Sports and Event Complex long drive grid is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28, at noon PT, just two days removed from representing the United States in the Ryder Cup. He will hit against 15 other competitors in a round-robin format with the top 12 advancing to the round of 64.
The event is scheduled to stream on prolongdrivers.com.
“Bryson loves the sport of long drive, so why can't he be a multi-sport athlete?” said Bobby Peterson, 53, a long drive legend and DeChambeau’s power swing coach. “Bo Jackson was pretty good at that.”
Peterson, a principle in the Professional Long Driver’s Association, describes long drive as the “drag racing of golf.” The discipline is practiced by athletes looking to hit the ball as far as possible one swing at a time. Someday, Peterson hopes the sport is considered for inclusion in the Olympics.
The spotlight shining on the sport because of DeChambeau’s participation should help the cause, while also helping him to become the best golfer possible.
And therein lies why DeChambeau has committed to both the sport and philosophy of long drive.
“Even leading up to the Ryder Cup, Bryson is still doing the speed training, but the reason he is committed to speed is not just training for our tournament,” Peterson said. “He sees, just like I have for 30 years, that learning to be efficient with the driver is going to make him a better golfer. Golf is hard, and the golf courses are getting more difficult. They can bring the rough in, bring it up. Fairways are rolling out more and greens are faster and other elements are in play. So, if you're closer to the green, naturally you're going to have a better chance at success. Bryson really sees that part of the game and how he can help his career on the PGA Tour. And I think that a lot of other players will start seeing that pretty soon.”
Peterson’s relationship with DeChambeau began in October 2020 at the PGA Tour’s Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas. PGA Tour player Cameron Percy, a Peterson client, knew DeChambeau and connected the two. Then, at the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship, the DeChambeau and Peterson partnership got serious and they went to work.
DeChambeau has traveled to Peterson’s One Stop Power Shop ranch in Newton Grove, N.C., where Peterson quickly learned about DeChambeau's commitment to distance. It wasn’t too long after that when Peterson asked DeChambeau if he would like to give the PLGA a try.
The answer 'Yes" came quickly.
Peterson and Ryan Reisbeck — also a long drive competitor — are part of the group that created the new long drive association after the Covid-19 pandemic massively impacted the sport in 2020. Golf Channel dropped its support of the World Long Drive Association, the sport’s previous governing body, which created a huge void for long drivers.
Now, unmatched exposure is being heaped upon the upcoming event, and the burning question is, how will DeChambeau do against the world’s best at smacking the golf ball insane distances?
Berkshire, the current champ who also works with Peterson, has a top ball speed of about 230 mph, while DeChambeau maxes out at about 216. But Peterson clarified that the two won’t be swinging at top speed in competition and should record speeds at around six mph slower than their maximums.
Consistency, not ball speed, is where DeChambeau should have the advantage. It only takes one shot to advance in long drive, but the pressure mounts with each swing when a competitor continually misses the grid and doesn’t record a qualified distance.
“I expect Bryson to the fill the grid with golf balls, and at the speed that he showed me here during his workouts, I think he will do fine the first day,” Peterson said. “The second day, we're in four groups of 16 and only eight will advance from each group and I think he'll be very competitive in that.
“Let's be honest, he's a great golfer and he handles pressure well. The deeper he gets into the competition I think the better he will do because guys’ nerves start to get them and they press a little. He's been on that stage in front of millions of people, so that should be a big advantage.”
Much like how is viewed on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau’s presence in Mesquite could be met with skepticism and competitors have differing opinions.
“I think it's a little bit of mixed emotions with some of the old guard probably seeing it as, ‘what are you doing?’” Peterson said. “But the new guys are loving it. They love the excitement. This is a party, right? We're going to be playing loud music and you don't have to be quiet. The fans are involved and are hollering and carrying on during the competition. Our competitors are out there to try to see just how good and how far they can hit a golf ball at max speed.”
They used to say “Bo Knows” during the Nike commercials. Soon, we will know how well “Bryson Knows” the sport of long drive.
"In my eyes, long drive is a very important part of the game," DeChambeau said in a Golf.com article. "I’d consider it to be the home run derby for golf, and I think it needs to be part of the entertainment spectrum.”
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