The distance debate is perhaps the biggest winner of the PGA Tour layoff thus far. Just weeks after the USGA and R&A released their highly anticipated distance report, golf’s governing bodies were forced to delay announcing proposed solutions while the rest of the world focuses on bigger issues.
While there’s been no movement in solving the distance debate, one golfer is trying to spark a new one. Tony Finau has long held the reputation as one of the game’s longest players (ranking 9th on Tour in driving distance in 2019), and he says even those numbers are throttled down from his true potential.
“With a normal length driver, just within the last 12 months, I’ve gotten to 138 (miles per hour) clubhead speed and 201 (mph) ball speed,” Finau said in his interview on GOLF’s Subpar. “I think that just took six or seven balls. I could get it probably close to 140 (mph clubhead speed) with a normal driver.”
For context, a Trackman report found the average clubhead speed for a driver on the PGA Tour is 113 mph and the average ball speed is 138 mph. While Finau’s maxed out numbers dwarf the average on Tour, they don’t tell the full story. In a recent range session with GOLF, the Utah native’s regular club speed was well above the PGA Tour average, registering in at 121.5 mph.
“I have the luxury of having speed on my side, I’ve always had it,” Finau said. “I’m built taller, longer. But it’s also an Achilles heel when it comes to hitting a knockdown shot. What people don’t understand that you can only hit it so far and hit it straight. You can only hit it so hard and hit it straight. Your mechanics can be perfect, but if you’re swinging at 140 miles per hour, I promise you when you hit two shots, none of them are going to go the same direction.”
For the taller, longer players on Tour, clubhead speed quickly becomes a double-edged sword. While the potential is astronomical, the result is often inconsistent.
“Guys like me, Gary Woodland, we have so much more in the tank,” Finau said. “It’s not even close. We know we can’t play at that speed. How am I going to go from hitting a 138 mph driver and then hit a 75-yard pitch shot? You know how amped up I am just from hitting that drive? There’s no way I can hit a pitch shot.”
Finau dialed down his speed for his tempo, his short game and his overall consistency, be he says he’s still the longest player on Tour. In fact, if you gave the 30-year-old the opportunity, he argues he’d hit it further than Woodland, Cameron Champ, or any of his other long-driving counterparts.
“I do think if you just get us on a driving range and give each of us five golf balls and see who can get it the furthest, I’d have a hard time believing someone can get it further than me,” Finau said. “I know what I have in the tank. I think I have more speed than just about anyone on Tour, including (Cameron) Champ. I think he’s recorded on Tour on getting his ballspeed up to the high 190s, but if I get after a few, I can get into the low 200s.”
Incredible swing numbers and savory competition aside, Finau feels the distance movement in golf is misguided.
“Everybody’s talking about ‘oh it’s going to be bigger, faster, stronger,'” he said. “Yeah, guys are going to do that, but with the equipment that we have, we’re pretty much maxed out. The guys on Tour are pretty much maxed out with how good you hit the golf ball at that speed.”
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