December 14, 2018
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
- John Daly lead the PGA TOUR in driving distance 11 times during a 12-season stretch. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Asking Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, John Daly and Greg Norman a few questions about driving the golf ball is a no-brainer. After all, each of the four have impressive credentials in that area.
Love led the TOUR in driving distance (measured drives) in 1986 and 1994 and ranked inside the top 10 in that category a dozen other times.
Norman ranked inside the top 10 in driving distance for nine seasons during his heyday.
Daly, of course, goes down as one of the PGA TOUR’s biggest hitters, leading in driving distance 11 times during a 12-season stretch. In 1997, he was the first player to average 300 yards in a single season.
Nicklaus was one of the longest drivers of his era, and was at his best on the biggest stages.
All four players were in last weekend’s PNC Father/Son Challenge and were gracious enough to weigh in on a few driving questions.
Q: In your opinion, you can include yourself, who are the top 3 greatest drivers of the golf ball of all time?
NICKLAUS: Norman’s gotta be (up there). Norman was a really good driver. He drove the ball very long and very straight. Norman was a really good driver of the golf ball. Norman was good. I mean Hogan was really good. Snead was really good. And I didn’t see Byron play that much but I’m sure Byron was really good. I mean Irwin was a really good driver of the golf ball. I think I was a good driver. I think if you take length and accuracy I was probably close to the top of the list every year. Not that they kept stats back then. Wieskopf was a really good driver of the golf ball. Actually Johhny Miller was a really good driver of the golf ball. I’ve given you more than three.
Arnold became a good driver of the golf ball after he stopped winning majors. Arnold drove it all over the place when he was young, and he won from there. A bit like Tiger. Tiger drove it all over the place and still won. And once Arnold actually stopped winning he became a really good driver. I mean really good.
Today’s game, you know, I don’t really know who’s a good driver today. I can’t tell because they hit it so far, and I don’t think they pay much attention to accuracy.
Because I think the best drivers are the guys that hit it the longest and the straightest; the combination of the two. And when they need to. And a lot of times it’s either a 2-iron or a 1-iron or a 4-wood is a drive too. It’s being smart with what club you play off the tee. Because that’s part of it, that’s still driving. Not just hitting with a driver.
Q: How far do you think you hit it with modern equipment back in your prime? Do you think you’re out with Cameron Champ and those boys?
NICKLAUS: I don’t know if I’ve never seen Cameron Champ. I wouldn’t know him if he was standing right here. I’ve never seen a picture of him.
Let me put it this way, when I was 58 years old was the first time I ever had my club speed measured. I was out there on the West Coast with Titleist or wherever it was, might have been TaylorMade, I’m not sure, anyway it was 118 (mph of club head speed). When I was 58. So I know I was a lot faster than that. But I have no idea how fast I was.
Do I think I would have hit the ball in my prime? I’d hit the ball in my prime as far as any of these guys, I’m sure. I moved the club head pretty good. And I was using a heavy golf club.
What I call a good driver is a guy who would drive the ball in play, and long enough to really do something, when he has to. It’s not guys that just hit the ball. And Norman did that really well. Faldo was a really good driver. He wasn’t long, but he was a really good driver.
DAVIS LOVE III
Q: Who would you say are the top-three drivers of the golf ball of all time? You can include yourself if you want.
DAVIS LOVE III: “I won’t include myself. I’ll let someone else do that. I’m probably not in the top 10. I would go with Greg Norman.”
Q: Is this in order? Is he one? Or just in the top three?
LOVE: “Oh. I’m going Greg Norman for No. 1 distance and direction. Who else? I’m going to go Calvin Peete just because straight. He drove it as straight as anybody I’ve ever seen. And then, um … who else would I want to drive for me? Right now, Rory McIlroy.”
Q: What are you thinking about Cameron Champ? Do you think he’d be outdriving you when you were in your prime?
LOVE: “Oh definitely. He reminds me a lot of me. I played with him first two rounds at [The RSM Classic]. And he’s got a driver and then a 2-iron.
“He hits the 2-iron past everyone’s driver. That’s what I did when I came out. I had a driver and then a Ping 1-iron. He’s the modern technology. You know when I came out in ’86, he’s that now, but with more power, you know, with the modern clubs. It’s just a whole different … but he’s that much longer than everybody else. That’s what I did, I was the longest in comparison.”
Q: Who would you say -- you can include yourself -- are the top-three drivers of the golf ball of all time?
JOHN DALY: “Oh, that’s a hard one. The generations have changed. A month ago, I was being called the greatest of all time, but that was from fans. I just don’t know how you would even predict it. How would you take it, like, fairways hit over your career and how far the average was. But we only (measure) two holes on TOUR. I guess Nicklaus had to be one of the greatest drivers of the golf ball.”
Q: If you had one guy to hit the tee shot on No. 15 at Augusta. who would it be? I guess that would be a good determining factor right there.
DALY: “If it’s with an iron, it’s Tiger. You know? (Laughs) Driver-wise I mean, right now it’s [Brooks] Koepka because he hits it so far and straight. Right now. But the greatest of all time? Man, that’s tough.”
Q: Do you think, in your prime, you hit it farther than Cameron Champ?
DALY: “It’s hard to say. Persimmon wood with a real soft ball? I think the ball is what’s made the difference in people hitting it so far now. How far do you think Nicklaus would have hit it in the era that we grew up in?”
Q: Yeah, it’s tough, I mean how far would you be hitting it with a new ball and a new head back in your prime?
DALY: “Well, I did know when I went from playing a Ping laminated driver back in those days and I switched to a bubble with TaylorMade, and back then with a balata ball, it didn’t change it. I think the golf ball is what’s changed it.”
Q: Including yourself, who are the top-three drivers of the golf ball of all time? And is Cameron Champ on that list?
GREG NORMAN: “No, he’s got a long way to go before he’s on that list. He’s a kid. He hasn’t played all the great golf courses under varying conditions and stuff like that. [Pointing to his caddie] He’d probably be the better one to ask. Who are the three best drivers of the golf ball of all time?”
CADDIE TONY NAVARRO: “He is the best driver of all time (points to Norman). I’d say Trevino was probably really good, and I think Adam Scott’s a great driver of the golf ball.”
NORMAN: “I would say Adam Scott. I’d put Adam right in there too. I would say there’s three different generations, right? Know what I mean?”
Q: What about Jack?
NORMAN: “Look, Jack was a good driver, I don’t think he was a great driver. I mean, a great driver of the golf ball is when you can put it out there and every time, there’s no fear, you’re just going at it. I’d put Jack in probably the top dozen.”
Q: Does Tiger hit enough fairways to make that list?
NORMAN: “He’s not, he’s not a great driver. Everybody picks up on Tiger, but he’s not a great driver of the golf ball, because he’s not consistent. He’s a great middle iron and iron player. But he’s not a great driver.”