Roberto Castro turned his head. Playing his back nine on Thursday at the Congaree Golf Club, he saw Wilco Nienaber’s drive on the 486-yard, par-4 11th roll about 15 yards and leave him a small wedge into the green. Castro got out his yardage book to check the carry. It was 340 yards. Castro even tweeted about the experience.
“I played in front of this dude today,” he wrote. “This drive rolled 15 yards. No wind. I saw it land, had to get my yardage book out to see how far it flew. 340. Shotlink confirmed.”
There’s head-turning distance.
There’s head-turning and yardage-book-checking distance.
There’s head-turning and yardage-book-checking and tweeting distance.
Check. Check. Check. Boom. Boom. Boom. Nienaber’s PGA Tour debut was a smash, pun intended. The 21-year-old South African is the European Tour’s longest hitter, and, this week, he was the Palmetto Championship’s longest.
“Yeah, he is an absolute stud,” analyst Trevor Immelman, a fellow South African, said during Golf Channel’s broadcast of Saturday’s round. “I’ve been telling people here in the U.S. for three years now to look out for him.”
GOLF’s Andrew Tursky wonderfully examined Nienaber’s equipment here. GOLF’s Luke Kerr-Dineen did the same with Nienaber’s swing here. Let’s take a look at the numbers that were a result of them this week:
Driving distance all holes and rank: 337.4 yards, first
Driving distance leader on the PGA Tour this season: 322.7 yards, Bryson DeChambeau
Driving distance per par-4 and 5 holes (with final-round yardages):
423-yard, par-4 1st: 334-yard average
573-yard, par-5 2nd: 329 yards
343-yard, par-4 3rd: 355 yards
565-yard, par-5 4th: 354 yards
462-yard, par-4 6th: 352 yards
488-yard, par-4 8th: 351 yards
495-yard, par-4 9th: 369 yards
470-yard, par-4 11th: 346 yards
566-yard, par-5 12th: 328 yards
445-yard, par-4 13th: 336 yards
342-yard, par-4 15th: 327 yards
445-yard, par-4 16th: 335 yards
470-yard, par-4 17th: 352 yards
440-yard, par-4 18th: 256 yards (Nienaber hit iron off the tee for the first three rounds)
Longest drive: 385 yards, 367-yard, par-4 3rd, third round
Longest drive on the PGA Tour this season: 425 yards, Lee Westwood, Byron Nelson
Ball speed per par-5 and 5 holes:
Hole 1: 194.3 mph
Hole 2: 196.2
Hole 3: 194.1
Hole 4: 199.0 (fourth round not recorded)
Hole 6: 195.6 (second round not recorded)
Hole 8: 198.4 (fourth round not recorded)
Hole 9: 195.6
Hole 11: 197.6
Hole 12: 199.89
Hole 13: 196.0
Hole 15: 189.6
Hole 16: 197.8
Hole 17: 194.3
Hole 18: 168.4
Highest ball speed: 200.806 mph, 626-yard, par-5 4th, second round
Highest average ball speed on the PGA Tour this season: 190.39, Bryson DeChambeau (high of 199.55)
Scores and finish: 68-68-74-67, tied for 14th
And maybe the most stunning number?
Nienaber’s just 6-foot-2 and about 175 pounds.