Cameron Champ is kind of amazing. He won the Sanderson Farms Championship in just his eighth start on the PGA Tour. He birdied five of his last six holes to do it. And he did it all at 23 years of age. He is probably a star and maybe a superstar, and none of this is even remotely the most jaw-dropping part of it all.
The most jaw-dropping part of it all is that Champ, who sometimes makes Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson seem short, averaged a stunning 343 yards off the tee en route to victory. Three-hundred and forty-three yards. That was his average. The next closest in this field was Tom Lovelady, who averaged 314 (although Lovelady did lead the field in strokes gained off the tee because Champ only hit 26 of 56 fairways).
Champ will almost undoubtedly be the longest driver on the PGA Tour this season. He also averaged 343 yards off the tee on the Web.com Tour last season, 10 yards longer than anyone else. The question is whether he can turn that prodigious length into multiple wins in his first season on the PGA Tour.
Champ’s swing looks so effortless it takes multiple viewings to see how he’s capable of hitting the ball as far as he does on the trajectory it’s on. I’m still astonished by it. I watched this video an insane number of times over the weekend, and it got more confusing, not less.
Champ even cracked his driver shortly before teeing off and shooting a 68 in the final round, and he had to go to a backup. Such is the collateral damage when your ball speed is 190 miles per hour.
But for all the distance and all the strength and all the power, it’s making putts that helped Champ to the four-shot win over Corey Conners. He gained four strokes on the field in the final day and finished second in that category for the week.
“That’s definitely been a part of my game I’ve worked on extremely hard on the Web Tour last year,” said Champ, who won the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship in July. “I’ve been kind of been a streaky putter at times. Just trying to just slowly grow obviously other parts of my game as well, short game and putting, but mainly putting, because my ball-striking has been so good.”
On the PGA Tour, ball-striking ultimately wins the day. It’s what gets you to this level, and it’s what keeps you there. To win tournaments, sure, you have to roll a few in, and that’s why nobody wins more than 10 percent of the time. But if Champ keeps driving and hitting it like he is, he’s going to have a lot of chances over the next few years and maybe longer to raise trophies even bigger than the one he got on Sunday evening in Mississippi.
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