A new appreciation of length


ORLANDO, Fla. – Zach Johnson pounded a good drive about 280 yards on Bay Hill's 467-yard, par-4 ninth hole, slight dogleg left requiring two solid golf shots. Johnson is a noted short to medium hitter who lives off of his accuracy (T-188 in driving distance at 268.8 yards).

Then Ernie Els (117th in driving distance at 282.8 yards) hit his hard draw about 15 yards past Johnson into the 300-yard range. Looked like he caught it well, but to his credit, the ball didn’t roll out as far as its boring flight would have suggested.

What followed, however, was Kyle Stanley’s low, burning, rocket-of-a-drive which landed in a different zip code – just over 330 yards – estimated by Johnson’s caddie, Damon Green.

The hole was playing slightly into the wind. 

Even Els, walking up the fairway, had to give it up to the rising young star with a few words, a laugh and an approving nod.

Stanley ranks T-21 in driving distance this year at 295.5 yards, which means he's not even close to the longest guy on Tour. For years, Els has been known as one of the big bombers.

Have times changed that much?