By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
When you think about most of the longest drivers in golf, you’d be forgiven for often picturing the big boys, the athletes.
Tall, strong, long muscular levers, all power, speed and distance. You’d be thinking of the likes of Nicolas Colsaerts, Henrik Stenson, Thomas Pieters, Lucas Bjerregaard...
But what if you were to take weight and size out of the equation to provide a level playing field?
We decided to find out by ranking players in a pound-for-pound long driving list to see who really gets it out there in spite, perhaps, of a smaller frame.
The formula we used to calculate the list was simple: Take all the players on the European Tour, divide their 2016 average driving distance by their body weight in kilograms to give a total score of yards driven per kilogram.
Rory’s got to be up there, right? What if we told you the four-time Major winner was only 17th in the European Tour’s pound-for-pound stakes? Even more curious now?
So without further ado – the top five, in descending order:
Average drive in 2016: 282.9 yards
SCORE: 4.35 yards per kilogram
Standing 5ft 9 inches tall and weighing in at just 65 kilograms, Matthew Fitzpatrick doesn’t need much in the way of an introduction. Already a three-time victor in his embryonic career on the European Tour, the 22 year old Englishman again validated his reputation as one the rising stars in world golf when he holed a nerve-shredding six-foot putt on the 18th hole at Jumeirah Golf Estates to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in 2016. Despite his slight physique, Fitzpatrick has been working hard in the gym this last year, as evidenced by some enhanced on-course statistics that saw him rank 16th in the Driving Distance category en route to victory in Dubai, so don’t be surprised to see his numbers with the big stick continue to rise into 2017.
Average drive in 2016: 282.2 yards
SCORE: 4.41 yards per kilogram
The second Englishman in the pound-for-pound top five, John Parry struggled on the European Tour in the 2016 campaign, finishing 180th in The Race to Dubai and with it finding himself back at the Qualifying School finale at PGA Catalunya. Parry, who won the very same event a few years back, claimed the ninth card on offer in Spain this time around to secure a seventh full season on the European Tour. At just under 5ft 8 inches and 64 kilograms, Parry also works hard in the gym to keep up with the big boys, and changed equipment manufacturers this year, too. “It has seen me gain significant yardage with each club,” he said, “so I’m getting used to playing courses from different positions.”
Average drive in 2016: 291.7 yards
SCORE: 4.49 yards per kilogram
The man who put this whole idea in our heads. On a number of occasions this year, we have watched Joakim Lagergren smashing his driver miles down the ranges and fairways of the European Tour and wondered, “he has to be up there, pound-for-pound, right?” Well, it turns out he is, as the diminutive Swede comes in third in our top five. Standing a shade under 5ft 10 inches but weighing just 65 kilograms, Lagergren still manages to average in excess of 290 yards from the tee and used that distance to great effect in 2016, finishing 45th in The Race to Dubai after doubling his previous best season earnings with €817,857.
Average drive in 2016: 297.1 yards
Started and ended 2016 with European Tour victories in his native South Africa – at the BMW SA Open and Alfred Dunhill Championship, respectively – Brandon Stone enjoyed a brilliant first year on the European Tour after graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2015. The 23 year old Pretorian, who at a lean 65 kilograms and 5ft 11 inches is the tallest member of our top five, averages nearly 300 yards from the tee and finished the season ranked 24th in the overall driving distance stats, as well as a highly respectful 50th in The Race to Dubai. Stone’s father Kevin is an experienced Sunshine Tour pro and national coach, so clearly all that expert tuition growing up has helped to produce some serious swing speed…
Average drive in 2016: 293.3 yards
SCORE: 4.66 yards per kilogram
The Number One, the Pound-for-Pound King. Standing a little over 5ft 6 inches tall and weighing just 63 kilograms, Jbe Kruger still managed to finish the 2016 season ranked inside the top 50 in Driving Distance at just over 293 yards. Using his Titleist driver, he out-struck, on average, the likes of Bernd Wiesberger, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and more, showing once and for all that size, really, isn’t everything. The 30 year old South African has one European Tour title to his name – the 2012 Avantha Masters in India – but consider this another big win, Jbe.
TOP 30 POUND-FOR-POUND (Yds p/KG)
1. Jbe Kruger - 4.66
2. Brandon Stone -4.57
3. Joakim Lagergren - 4.49
4. John Parry - 4.41
5. Matthew Fitzpatrick - 4.35
6. Sebastien Gros - 4.27
7. Marcus Kinhult - 4.27
8. Eduardo de la Riva - 4.24
9. Charl Schwartzel - 4.20
10. Clement Berardo - 4.18
11. Borja Virto - 4.13
12. David Lipsky - 4.11
13. Steve Webster - 4.10
14. Lucas Nemecz - 4.09
15. Simon Dyson - 4.09
16. Paul Peterson - 4.09
17. Rory McIlroy - 4.09
18. Pelle Edberg - 4.07
19. SSP Chawrasia - 4.07
20. Chris Paisley - 4.07
21. Jeunghun Wang - 4.06
22. Carlos Pigem - 4.05
23. Edouard Espana - 4.04
24. Rikard Karlberg - 4.03
25. Fabrizio Zanotti - 4.02
26. Tyrrell Hatton - 4.01
27. Jason Scrivener - 4.01
28. Tommy Fleetwood - 3.99
29. Soomin Lee - 3.95
30. Louis Oosthuizen - 3.94