They Would Be Stars Regardless

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The good old days boy, if you could have only seen how they made that golf ball dance around the hole. Yeah, youve heard it as much as I have. Of course, now the story goes, theyve souped up the balls and drivers so just about anybody who plays professionally can bash it out there 350 yards. But if these kids tried to make it 20-30-40 years ago, they would fail miserably.
 
OK, all that may be true. But there is at least one of the old boys who says these kids today can play every bit as good as their fathers. Curtis Strange was good enough to win back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988 and 89, and just missed three in a row in 1990.
 
And, Strange says that dont you believe for a minute these gents today would not have been just as good back in the days when he and Tom Watson and Lee Trevino were winning tournaments ' heck, even before. Could the men of this generation been near the top 20 or 30 years ago? Certainly they could, he says.
 
The major part of the equation ' and the part that never gets talked about enough ' is the speed that these guys have, says Strange. Theyre better athletes, theyre stronger athletes, and the clubhead speed that these guys have is phenomenal. J.B. Holmes would hit it a lot further than I would 25 years ago ' because his speed is just so much faster. Tiger, J.J. Henry ' any of those guys.
 
Lets see, in 89 ' the year that Strange won his second straight U.S. Open ' Ed Humenik won the driving title by averaging a shade under 281 yards per drive. Davis Love III, who has long been reputed as one of the longer guys with a driver, averaged 274. Curtis himself, despite his Open victory, was down in 156th place with an average drive of 253. Curtis never was very long, but he could wear out the middle- and long-irons.
 
Strange concedes the blatantly obvious ' balls go further, the driver pops it longer. After all, he is hitting it 262 yards now at 51 years of age, almost 10 yards further than he was 15-17 years ago. He wont deny that todays players get the advantage of longer balls and drivers.
 
You take out of the equation the equipment, he said. Certainly it (the ball) goes further because of the technology ' bigger heads, longer club shafts with the driver, the ball spins less. If you launch it, the ball goes further.'
 
But, he says, bigger kids influence even bigger kids, better golfers begat even better golfers.
 
As Tiger says, this is just the tip of iceberg, because the Tiger-Ernie-Phil influence on the young kids might not show up for another 10 years. Tigers been on the scene for 10 years. Those kids might be 10 years old now, but they grew up with Tiger. They going to be bigger, faster, jump higher than J.B. Holmes. Theyre going to be 6-6 and 6-7 possibly, and hit it further and further ' I dont care what they hit it with.
 
Holmes is averaging 313.5 per wallop, and that doesnt even lead the driving statistics this year. Bubba Watson is on top with 320.5.
 
In fact, 13 golfers are averaging at least 300 yards per drive. If Humenik were using the same ball and driver he was using in 89, his average of 281 would be down in the 135th spot today.
 
Curtis is, in a word, impressed. He isnt saying that Jack Nicklaus wouldnt have been great. He isnt saying that Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan wouldnt have been tremendous also. But he IS saying that the players of today, despite the advances of technology, would have been just as impressive 40 or 50 years ago.
 
These guys are still so talented, if you put them back in a time warp of 20 years, theyd adapt overnight, he insists. They really would. Theyve got great short games ' I dont care how far you hit it, you have to have a great short game to score. And, they would adapt in a hurry.
 
There is a difference in the game today and the game of Stranges time, though. The players today nail their drivers and attack the pin with a precise short-iron barrage. But he sees something missing in the equation.
 
The only thing I wish is that they would hit more middle- and long irons, he said.
 
I made a career out of hitting middle irons because of the length of the golf courses and the length we hit it. Those guys who were my length ' Faldo you played a U.S. Open, gosh you hit 4-5-6 iron all day long. And now, they dont ever hit that. I wish they would hit more long irons ' they do on par-5s, he said with a laugh.
 
But ' theyre incredibly talented.
 
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