'A good putter will always beat a long hitter’
Bunker ambassador Paul Streeter is one of the longer hitters on the Legends Tour - we picked his brains about the recent distance report
How far do you hit it compared to 20 years ago when you played on the European Tour?
I pitch it 265 yards through the air now. When I played on the European Tour I was around 65th in driving distance, so somewhere in the middle, and I was hitting it the same distance then. I would be one of the longer hitters on the Legends Tour so it obviously doesn’t bother me, if I was a shorter hitter then I would strive to increase my length a little bit.
I’d personally like to have our courses set up a bit longer but that’s because I hit it a long way. There are not many par 4s where I’m not hitting driver and wedge into, maybe two where I don’t, whereas in the States I’m maybe hitting a good drive and then a 7-8-9 iron.
I don’t think a tournament ball will ever happen in senior golf as they’re not having to lengthen the courses for the seniors, it’s the same with the women.
When was a good period for how courses fitted with how far the ball went?
I always remember Dar es Salaam when I played on the European Tour, it was a fantastic course and I hit every club in the bag and that is very rare. The ball is the big thing that changed with the Pro V1 - we could go back to playing Balatas but even then we would still have the long hitters whether it is 300 yards and everyone else is 240. I hope it doesn’t change, I’ve played with guys who’ve hit it 40 past me and I’ll make birdie and I’ll joke ‘great drive’ and I’ve had it happen to me all the time. That’s the game.
How much does length play a part in the senior game?
On the PGA Tour it is a big hitter’s game but the courses are set up for long hitters.Valderrama is a great example of how a course can be set up, anyone can win round there, you just have to hit it straight.
The person who wins every week is the guy who putts the best. It doesn’t matter how far you hit it, if you don’t hole the putts you won’t win. Length helps but it doesn’t guarantee anything and a good putter will always beat a long hitter. I played with a good friend in Russia and he took a headcover off 13 times in 18 holes, he was hitting rescues where I was hitting wedge, and he shot -3, I shot -1. I would have considered that the best round of my life but he does it all the time.
But it can play a pretty big part on the PGA Tour?
Kevin Na won in Hawaii and he said that there are certain courses that he can win at. Kevin Kisner was funny the other week when he said that he was unlikely to win at Torrey Pines or Bethpage because of their length but that he turned up ‘because they give away a lot of money for 20th’.
But a good day with the putter and you can still win, you can still hit a long iron good and putt well and so you can compete.
How much would reining in the ball etc affect the punters’ enjoyment?
We all love to see it, I did a golf day for a building company and I would show them how to shape the ball or hook it with a 6-iron but all they wanted to see is me hit driver.
A great example is Bryson - he’s done all this heavy work to increase his clubhead speed. Yes, he won the US Open by hitting it miles but also by holing some fantastic putts. We keep talking about his distance and it is amazing but that’s not what won him the tournament. It’s interesting how the authorities are quicker to change things, like the long putter, when someone wins a major. When Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott all won things soon changed.
On the European Tour we have Wilco Nienaber. He’ll fly it 15 yards past Bryson and he is as skinny as a rake. He’s gangly and creates a lot of clubhead speed and that will always happen.
What courses do you like in terms of set-up?
At Lytham you’ve got to be straight. If you hit it in a fairway bunker you will just be chipping out, it’s a course that you can’t overpower - Duval won the 2001 Open on -10 while Ernie Els won in 2012 on -7 and he was one of only eight players under par.
Harbour Town on the PGA Tour is brilliant, you’ve got to plot it to the corners and we need more courses like that. On a long wide-open course, with whatever rough, it doesn’t matter as if you have a wedge you’ll still get it on the green.
How long would it take you to get used to a tournament ball?
If you get the right conditions you would have it dialled in within a couple of days. You would hit 10 balls and then go and measure the middle of them and that’s how far you hit it.