“I think I’m definitely changing the way people think about the game.”https://t.co/5p89DjLNHM
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 21, 2020
Winged Foot was expected to be unplayable, but the beefy bruiser instead made it his personal playground. What does that portend for the future of the game?
Way back in 2006, with The International about to commence at Castle Pines Golf Club (we said it was way back), The Denver Post did a story focusing on what was then a new trend in golf. With practitioners like J. B. Holmes and Bubba Watson leading the way, the debate in golf was whether the sport would be overrun by “bomb and gouging”—hitting the ball as far as possible off the tee without regards to where it lands, because, the theory went, even if it ended up in the rough, the bomber would still be flipping a wedge in to the green.
“It’s a totally different game,” tour veteran Steve Stricker said at the time. “When I first came out, it was important to get it into the fairway, important to lay it up short of the bunkers, play position golf. Now, guys just take out the driver anywhere.”
The moment of reckoning or the great equalizer, it was thought, would come during major championships, particularly the U.S. Open, where USGA officials prided themselves on defending par, usually by penalizing any player who drifted mere inches off the fairway.
So what then, are we to make of Bryson DeChambeau, who won last weekend at Winged Foot with a 6-under-par 274, an astonishing 11 shots better than the winning score the last time the tournament was contested there, which was also in 2006? It wasn’t as if DeChambeau won with a dizzying display of accuracy, directing fairways, like Stricker—for the week, he found the short grass just 41 percent of the time.
Instead, DeChambeau pulverized the course into submission, deciding that length (he averaged 325 yards on his drives) was a far better formula to success than precision.
“[Hitting it as far as I did] was a tremendous advantage this week,” he said afterwards “I kept telling everybody it’s an advantage to hit it farther. It’s an advantage. [Statistician] Mark Broadie was talking to [coach] Chris Como, and they were both talking about how they just made the fairways too small this week to have it be an advantage for guys hitting the fairway.
“Let’s take an example of you [making the fairway] like a yard wide. Nobody’s got the fairway. Length’s going to win. You make the fairways too wide, length’s going to win. There’s this balance between widths of fairways and where they want to play it and where they’re going to try to make you play it.”
Of course, there’s more to DeChambeau’s game than mere brute force; while as unconventional as his physical makeover, he also has an impressive short game. But it’s the power that is reverberating throughout the sport, with people asking what does it all mean—has DeChambeau, like Nicklaus, like Woods before him, revolutionized the game? What will places like Augusta National, which famously “Tiger-proofed” its exalted tract as a result of his prodigious length, do now as a result? After the U.S. Open, CBS Sports.com pondered those and other questions (Please note, there is a swear word in the story).
Amazing feeling after so much hard work has gone into this transformation of my game and outlook. Thank you to my fans, team and sponsors for sticking with me. And thank you to the @USGA, @usopengolf and Winged Foot for an incredible test. So honored to have won my 1st major here pic.twitter.com/75OEogzMtc
— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) September 21, 2020
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