He should have been knee deep in Ryder Cup duties at Whistling Straits. Instead, European captain Padraig Harrington was offering his tuppence worth about Bryson DeChambeau, golf’s man of the moment.
Speaking ahead of his appearance in this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, near Ballymena, the three-time major winner said it was nothing new in golf for a big-hitter to be talk of the steamie.
He admitted, though, that he hoped that a knee-jerk reaction to DeChambeau using sheer power to win the 120th US Open at Winged Foot would not lead to future major venues such as St Andrews being “tricked up” to combat the game’s new wave of muscle men.
“I don’t see anything different,” said Harrington. “We’ve seen guys do this for years. Tiger [Woods] was doing it, Rory [McIlroy] did it, the guys winning majors almost always have an advantage off the tee. It’s not new.
“Bryson was long last week, but he was seventh in driving distance. There are guys that play their golf like that all the time. I’m sure Rory hit as many drivers off the tee as Bryson did last week.
“It’s a big change in the mind of people but it’s been there. If you haven’t seen this coming, you’ve been blind. It’s what Rory and DJ [Dustin Johnson] did, it’s what Tiger did, it’s what Greg Norman did, it’s what Jack Nicklaus did. To play this game, you’ve got to be great off the tee and it’s always been that way.”
Harrington, who is making his 25th successive appearance in the Irish Open this week after seeing the Ryder Cup postponed for 12 months, added: “In ten years’ time, there will be an abundance of them out here with 190-200mph ball speed and it doesn’t matter if you dial back the clubhead or dial back the ball. If you can swing a 7-iron at 110mph, there’s not much rough that will hold you back.
“With the capabilities at the moment, I would say Bryson is swinging at about, if you compare it to 100 metres, he’d be running at 12 seconds. The human capability, he’s running 100 metres at about 12 seconds at the moment, so he’s still got another 20 per cent more in the tank in terms of human capabilities for other players to come along.
“I actually think the biggest change could come in women’s golf. You’re going to get a woman out there playing well into the mid-170s ball speed and would be competitive on the men’s tour.”
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, spoke earlier in the week about how he was already “worried” that the championship tee at the 17th hole at St Andrews had been moved back 50 yards. He also said it could be “embarassing” to see what DeChambeau could shoot on the Old Course on a flat calm day.
Commenting on that, Harrington said: “You really can’t defend any golf course in perfect conditions. If you get an easy golf course, they’ll trick it up. Like Graeme is saying, St Andrews on a nice day could be easy and you could end up having to trick the golf course up, and nobody wants to play a tricked-up golf course, there’s no doubt. If you start putting pins on slopes of two yards away from a slope, it’s no fun for anybody.
“Bryson played great last week and he’ll hope to do it again, but it won’t happen like that every week, there will be ebbs and flows. There’s plenty of players who could beat him and be longer than him and there will be plenty coming out like that. He’s just a good player who hits it a long way.”
Shane Lowry is also in the field at Galgorm Castle, close to where he was crowned as Open champion at Royal Portrush last summer.
He said of DeChambeau’s power: “It’s not that I didn’t want Bryson to win, but I was worried about Bryson winning last week in case the USGA and the R&A starts talking about changing the golf ball and equipment.
“I think golf is fine the way it is. As long as we set up courses properly, there isn’t a problem with golf.”
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