Who has the drive?
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Bethpage Black undoubtedly favors a long hitter. After all, it’s more than 7,400 yards long, and should play longer because of the anticipated rain.
But, if the ’02 Open is any indication, some medium-length hitters could find ways to contend. Of course, only one player finished within five shots of Woods (Phil Mickelson), so it’s hard to even call the top 10 finishers “contenders.”
Look at the leaderboard from ’02, with their rank in driving distance that year in parentheses. Eight of the top 15 finishers were outside the top 100 in driving distance, including six who were outside the top 150:
1. Tiger Woods (6, 293.3 yards)
2. Phil Mickelson (25, 288.8)
3. Jeff Maggert (T-150, 274.9)
4. Sergio Garcia (T-14, 290.5)
5. Scott Hoch (T-184, 270.0)
5. Nick Faldo (NR)
5. Billy Mayfair (179, 270.9)
8. Nick Price (T-166, 272.7)
8. Tom Byrum (182, 270.5)
8. Padraig Harrington (NR)
11. Peter Lonard (T-84, 281.4)
12. Jay Haas (162, 273.3)
12. Dudley Hart (132, 276.7)
12. Justin Leonard (119, 278.7)
12. Robert Allenby (36, 286.7)
“It’s still possible, absolutely,” Tom Lehman said of a mid-length hitter’s chances of contending. “People who have a good driving week, and have a good week around the greens chipping and putting are going to do well. If you can put the ball in the fairway, really no matter where it is, and even if you can’t reach the greens, ... if you can chip and putt, you’ll be OK.
“That’s why I say a medium-length hitter, if he can drive it well, is going to be no worse off than a guy who drives it longer, but a little more crooked. So it’s all about them getting it into position to make a par, and then when you have a chance to make birdie, you have to make it.”