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Driving his rivals to distraction

Bryson DeChambeau in full swing

Golf’s biggest hitters are ruining the game, says Mike Jakeman in Wired. The world’s great courses are set up so a male professional can hit a fairway from a tee 250 yards away, say. But advances in kit, diet, fitness and data analysis mean top players are driving the ball 100 yards further than they were a century ago. Course designers have tried to adapt, making holes longer, fairways narrower and rough thicker, but it’s not working.

When Bryson DeChambeau, the biggest hitter of the lot, won the US Open in 2020, he did so with the longest average drive of any champion ever. But he also hit the fewest fairways of any champion since records began. In other words, he blasted the ball with less regard for accuracy than his predecessors, and still won. Fellow pro Matt Fitzpatrick took a dim view. “It’s not a skill to hit the ball a long way,” he told tournament reporters. “The skill in my opinion is to hit the ball straight. He is taking the skill out of it.” Rory McIlroy grumbled: “He’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just not the way I saw this tournament being played.” Golfers call DeChambeau’s technique “bombing and gouging” – bombing the ball off the tee, then gouging it out of the rough when you miss the fairway. It isn’t a compliment.

⛳️ McIlroy has admitted tinkering with his swing to emulate DeChambeau’s power, but English golfer Justin Rose took a very different approach to his preparations for this weekend’s Masters tournament. He has relied on “psychology rather than gadgets and gouging”, says Ewan Murray in The Guardian. Instead of playing tournaments, Rose has “spent hour upon hour sitting in the trophy room of his home, ‘playing’ Augusta National in his mind”. He “visualised every shot and every outcome”. Result? Rose carded a blistering 65 in the Masters first round, four shots clear of the field. DeChambeau limped home in 76.

Still a smash hit at 91

Monique Giffard is the world’s undisputed No 1 tennis player – in the new over-90s category. The amateur player from Royan, southwest France, would like to be at home with her feet up, “eating chocolate”, says the French newspaper Sud Ouest. But her “pushy” children won’t let her retire. Twice-weekly training with Jean-Marc Moncoueffe, “a man with the patience of an angel to train a 91-year-old grandmother”, keeps her on her toes. “We walk by the sea, use dumbbells for toning and do floor exercises,” says Moncoueffe. At home, Giffard’s workout sees her “open and close the 25 windows of the house every day. Which gives me a total of 46 steps to go up and down.”

She began playing aged about 20 in Madagascar, where her father worked as a school inspector, but success took time: she won her first amateur tournament aged 60. Now she has a respectable 80 cups and 20 medals to her name. At the moment Giffard has only one rival in the over-90s category: Brazilian Ilca Nogueira Silva, also born in 1930. There are 89-year-olds gunning for her spot, but Giffard plays a tough game tight to the net and stays as cool as a cucumber. “Some have nervous breakdowns when they lose. Others cheat,” she says. But for her the game is about “making friends” and seeing the world.