A month ago, Rory McIlroy and caddy, Harry Diamond were left gobsmacked when Bryson DeChambeau launched a drive of 428-yards 146-yards past the present World No. 1 during the second round of the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
In capturing last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, DeChambeau launched into new golfing frontiers 43 drives over 350-yards during the four days on route to victory in Detroit.
DeChambeau’s new-found distance has been the major talking point since the PGA Tour’s return to competition on June 11th in Texas.
The R&A CEO Martin Slumbers has spoken of a need to again ‘seriously reconsider’ the distances the likes of DeChambeau is hitting the ball, and this after earlier this year releasing a long-prepared report on the subject.
The Open Championship winning duo of Sandy Lyle and Gary Player have also spoken of DeChambeau’s driving ability with Lyle, who won The Open this week 40-years ago at Royal St. George’s, saying: “Well, the last time I could drive the ball 350-yards was to a downhill fairway and with a 60mph wind behind me”.
Player is predicting that the famed Old Course, host venue now for the 150th anniversary of The Open in 2022, could be made ‘obsolete’ by the likes of DeChambeau.
McIlroy found himself drawn into the discussion as he returns to competition after a week’s break at this week’s Jack Nicklaus hosted Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
“I’ve seen the videos that Bryson has been putting up on Twitter, and he looks like he’s turned his living room into a golf laboratory, but look, he’s doing what he believes is the right path forward for him,” said McIlroy.
“We’re here this week at Jack Nicklaus’s golf course, and Jack was the longest in his day, and it was a massive advantage. Length will always be an advantage in golf. It’s just the way it is.
“Even if some of these people that are talking about changing equipment or changing the ball, the longest are still going to be the longest, and the longest are still going to have an advantage.
“What Bryson’s doing is very impressive. He always had speed. I remember playing with Bryson back in 2016 in Abu Dhabi. It was a sponsor’s invitation.
“I think he might have just turned pro, and he had speed back then. I mean, when he wanted to, he could hit it long. He’s maybe put on a little bit, but I even — at Portrush last year I think it was right in the infancy of this journey he’s been on, looking at the — they have the tracker on the range, and his ball speeds were up in the 190s then.
“So, he’s always had the speed. Maybe the mass that he’s put on has helped him get a little bit more, but I don’t — I’d love to see what speeds he could get without him putting on the 40 pounds or whatever it is that he’s put on. But look, more power to him.
“He’s making golf interesting, and he’s certainly getting people to talk about him. And look, he’s already won. He’s won already, and he’s played some good events and been in contention, so it’s working for him.”
Indeed, DeChambeau has had a win and three other top-10s since the end of golf’s lockdown whereas McIlroy has posted results of T32nd (Charles Schwab), T41st (RBC Heritage) and T11th (Travelers).
And there are four players in this week’s field that could go to World No.1 this week should McIlroy continue to stumble but thanks to the PGA Tour helping McIlroy secure a U.S. waiver entry visas for his coach, Michael Bannon, McIlroy is hopeful of a first win since last October in far off Shanghai.
“It’s always good to be back here at Muirfield Village as it’s always a course that I’ve enjoyed playing, and the Memorial Tournament is always a tournament I’ve enjoyed being a part of,” said McIlroy.
“Jack (Nicklaus) does a great job in setting the course up for us every year, and obviously this year different circumstances having the Workday event last week and then obviously coming into this week.
“I got here on Monday and played 18 Tuesday and played nine holes and I’m going to go out and play another nine this afternoon (Wednesday).
“So, I’m excited. It was nice to take a couple weeks off after the Travelers. I was actually — I had planned to play the Workday Charity Open last week, but I just needed to do a little bit of work on my game, so I got my coach, Michael Bannon, over last week.
“It was the first time I’d seen him since the start of February, so it was nice to spend some time with him and get some good work done and feel a bit better about my game and my swing going into this week, and then obviously looking ahead to the next couple of months.”
McIlroy will play the opening two rounds in the company of five-time Memorial winner, Tiger Woods and also fellow four-time Major winning Brooks Koepka.
And organisers will send Graeme McDowell and South African Dylan Frittelli out in the very last group on day one given their recent COVID-19 association.
McDowell’s long-time caddy, Ken Comboy had tested positive, as did Frittelli but both have been cleared to be in attendance at the Memorial.