Why 21-year-old bomber Wilco Nienaber gives a glimpse into the future of golf | Golf News and Tour Information
RIDGELAND, SC — Not all 190 mph ball speeds are created equal. Bryson DeChambeau can do it, but it takes a lot of effort, starting with a full-body transformation fueled by protein shakes, strength training, and speed workouts in the living room. The blasting of the ACDC is also helping the cause.
Next is the actual golf shot. When The Big Golfer decides he wants to unload properly on one of them, his ways become bodybuilders. He quickens his breathing. Begins to shake. He whispers sweet words to himself while palpating his driver up and down. Prepare for take off. He then pulls the club back past parallel, loads on his right foot, lifts his left off the ground, discharges every ounce of strength he has into that poor golf ball, spins with his lower body, growls and has need an impromptu footwork to keep his balance while admiring his work.
It is impressive, of course, but also laborious. What makes the viewing of Wilco Nienaber, born in April 2000, breathtaking.
The 21-year-old South African, who is playing the Palmetto Championship this week in Congaree, made headlines at the Johannesburg Open last November when he crushed a 439-yard run that did not touch a cart track. There was no fun business, no noise, no wobbly leg finish – just a hyper-athletic, super-wide golf swing of a 6ft 2in young man with gangly arms, swift hips and a knack. supernatural for speed. His arms seem unloaded of any syrupy material that hinders the movement of other pros on the circuit. They just go faster. And it is quite natural.
“It’s not at all something I’ve worked on,” Nienaber said. “I can definitely get it longer. “
The resulting bullet flight is also different. As DeChambeau plays a high draw – and Cameron Champ, another 190+ player with easy speed, hits a low, spinning ball – Nienaber plays a mid-height cut that barely seems to spin at all. If DeChambeau’s distance comes largely from porting and Champ’s from rolling, Nienaber’s distance gets both. It travels for miles, it lands then it rolls, and it rolls again, once up to 439 meters.
Nienaber was second in solo that week at Joburg, his best result as a pro until he won the Dimension Data Pro-Am last month. The victory propelled him to the top of the Sunshine Tour earnings list, good for a berth in next week’s US Open.
Hearing that Nienaber had secured a start at Torrey Pines, Johann Rupert sprang into action. The South African billionaire, golf enthusiast who, according to Scottish, is the “driving force” behind the Alfred Dunhill Links European Tour championship, Nienaber and his playing partner Garrick Higgo, 22, argued on Saturday since they were juniors. Rupert telephoned his billionaire friend and colleague Dan Friedkin, co-founder of Congaree, and helped the two young players to be invited by a sponsor to the Palmetto Championship.
Competing in his very first event on the PGA Tour, Nienaber clocked 68 consecutive seconds to earn a start time on Saturday afternoon with HIggo, with whom he played for the No.1 junior ranking of South African junior golf he did. not so long ago.
“I don’t even watch where he hits him,” Higgo said after a 68 that puts him in the top five before Sunday. “I’m used to it.”
When asked if he’d ever hit him by his taller countryman, Higgo didn’t hesitate: “Maybe if he hits him from the pipe or something.”
Nienaber’s easy power also caught the attention of his teammates who, unlike Higgo, were unfamiliar with Nienaber’s game. Tour pro Roberto Castro took to Twitter on Thursday to express his amazement.
“I played in front of this guy today,” he wrote, posting a screenshot of Nienaber’s 354-yard drive on the 11th hole. “This drive drove 15 meters. No wind. I saw it land, I had to pull out my distance log to see how far it was flying. 340. Shotlink confirmed.
And it was short. Relatively speaking, of course, but Nienaber averaged 361.1 yards in the first two days at Congaree, which saw him defy DeChambeau’s record for the longest average driving distance in a single test ( 363.1 at the opening of Shriners Hospitals for Children.) He hit five records of 360 or more on Friday alone.
On Saturday, perhaps feeling the nerves of being semi-contested on the Big Tour for the first time, Nienaber was a bit of a foul machine shooting 74. Especially early. On the first, he smothered a quick hook in a garbage bunker to the left. At n ° 2, a melted block in the water obstacle at the bottom right. He is a 21 year old kid ranked No. 143 in the world; it is far from being a finished product.
It’s what he did at the next hole that will send a shudder down the spines of those clamoring for a rollback of the equipment.
The third hole in Congaree is a par 4 which measures 367 yards. With the heat of South Carolina and the firm turf of Congaree, he was driven all week. Nienaber went for the driver and unleashed a three-yard cut – that’s his original shot – that landed just before the leading edge and overflowed, a good twenty yards above the green. ShotLink fixed it at 385 meters.
It was a breathtaking display of power and, barring any rule changes, a glimpse into the future of professional gaming.
Nienaber first hit balls on a launch monitor at British Amateur 2018. “The rep couldn’t believe what he saw,” Nienaber said. “I had no idea what the right numbers were. From that day on, I learned a bit more. Today’s 13-year-olds know what the right numbers are because pitch monitors have been an ever-present accessory on their golf trips. They also have more stats and data than ever before, course management systems that help them choose mathematically optimized targets and clubs. The influx of information tells a very clear story: distance is king. The closer the hole, the better. That’s why Bryson has grown.
The courts had to react. Congaree was in a better position than most, as it opened just three years ago. Tom Fazio designed the place taking into account today’s distances. As such, he’s 7,600 yards in and is a par-71 this week… and that doesn’t play long for these guys at all. Just five years ago, clubhead speed at 120 mph and ball speed at 180 mph were the unofficial benchmark for “long” on the PGA Tour. Nienaber sails above those with his 5 antlers, which he flies comfortably at 305 meters. He’s not wearing a 3-wood because, well, that would go too far. On Saturday he hit club head speed of 132 mph and hit a ball speed of 199 mph
And he’s just lying down. His body continues to develop and he has entrusted his conditioning to Dr Steve McGregor, who has worked with Rory McIlroy for years and still sees Lee Westwood, who is doing very well at 48. Nienaber’s muscular build is an interesting contrast to Bryson’s mass, and DeChambeau frequently cites his lack of height as the main obstacle to adding even more speed. Taller men mean longer arms, which serve as longer levers to generate a whip.
“I think over time there isn’t much to gain from the technological side of golf club manufacturing and construction,” DeChambeau said ahead of the Masters. “There are small things we can do, but where the massive gains will be the athletes. Once you get someone here who is a 7ft tall human being and is able to swing a golf club at 145 miles an hour effortlessly, this is where things become one. not very interesting.
Golf statistician Lou Stagner recently posted a fascinating Twitter graph that showed the percentage of starts on the PGA Tour by players 6ft 2in or taller. In the early 2000s, the number had risen to just under 20%; There has been a huge increase over the past two years, and 29.1% of touring departures this season have come from players Nienaber’s size or taller.
As the money at stake keeps increasing – hello PGL and SGL – more and more top athletes will turn to golf. In April, 6-foot-8-tall Jordan Hahn became the tallest player to compete in a PGA Tour event. Tommy Morrison, a junior determined to play in Texas, is 6 feet 9 inches tall. Nienaber may be the longest player at next week’s US Open, but the 30,000-foot view suggests he’s just the next in a long line of taller and longer players. Hate him or love him, that’s the truth.