KAPALUA, Hawaii – A reporter who had heard that Cameron Champ could be the future of golf wanted to see one of these drives up close.
The rookie is leading the PGA Tour in driving distance and will likely set a new record by the end of the season. The trajectory and power on some of them are unprecedented outside of long drive contests and it was time to see it in person.
Standing behind the ninth tee box the anticipation grew as Champ pulled driver out of the bag. He’d already hit a 335-yard 3-wood off the first tee, so this was gonna be good.
Then Champ snap-hooked it directly into a nasty area way left of the fairway and dropped his driver in frustration. It was the type of shot you see all the time at the local muni but rarely ever on the PGA Tour. Shot Tracker had it at 223 yards.
It was a letdown for sure and resulted in a double-bogey 7 on an extremely off-brand day for Champ.
The 23-year-old known for his driver salvaged his round with a dominant putting performance and currently sits T-14 at 2 under. With just a few groups left on course Champ was first in the field with a 3.658 strokes gained putting performance.
He was also first in the field in driving distance (311 yards) but struggled to control it in windy conditions which exceeded 20 miles per hour.
Champ hit a beauty at the par-4 sixth to the tune of 334 yards and followed that up with a 354-yard poke at No. 7. But he finished almost dead last in strokes gained off the tee thanks to accuracy issues.
The real reason he was able to stay in contention during his first round at Kapalua’s Plantation Course was the putting, which totaled more than 147 feet during his Tournament of Champions debut.
If he’s able to straighten it out a bit off the tee and stay hot on the greens, he could make it a very memorable first trip to Maui.