If fellow champ, Rory McIlroy can’t ‘wrap’ his head around Bryson DeChambeau’s stunning U.S. Open triumph, then what will the green jacketed Augusta National members be thinking with the Masters now 53 days away.
DeChambeau’s impact in the weeks following the return to golf last June has been nothing short of stunning but tinged with controversy.
There’s those in awe of his Winged Foot achievement but then those such as the administrators, and also the legends of the game, continuing to be concerned with the ‘driving distance’ impact Bryson’s big hitting is having.
Just twice in the history of the Masters, on a course where there is traditionally hardly any rough, has there been an over par winning score and that was in 1954 and 1956 (One over on both occasions) while Jordan Spieth set a new low of 18-under in capturing the 2015 Masters.
DeChambeau had yet to hole the winning putt last Sunday when McIlroy found himself being asked if DeChambeau could overcome one of the toughest golf courses on the planet in Winged Foot, then what is he going to do to Augusta National.
“I’m thinking of Augusta and thinking of the way you have to play there, and I recall saying a few weeks ago, the game’s moved on a lot in the last 14 years since the U.S. Open was played at Winged Foot, and you’re seeing what the game has become, what Bryson’s been doing out there,” said McIlroy.
“Bryson’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just — it’s not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played. It’s kind of hard to really wrap my head around it.”
Earlier this year, the R&A and the USGA teamed to release their much-awaited ‘Distance Insights’ report that was some two-years in the making but in just four months we’ve muscle-bound DeChambeau outrageously rewriting the record books.
Just take a closer look at his Winged Foot six-shot victory achievement.
Over the four rounds, DeChambeau hit 23 of the 56 fairways for a mere 41.1% success rate to be ranked T26th in ‘fairways hit’ for the week
Consider this: Since 1981, no U.S. Open winner has hit fewer than 27 fairways and take a look at the ‘driving’ stats of four former U.S. Open champs.
- Angel Cabrera, 2007, Oakmont, 27 fairways (ranked 48th for the week in accuracy)
- Tiger Woods, 2008, Torrey Pines, 30 (ranked 56th)
- Webb Simpson, 2012, Olympic Club, 31 (ranked 13th)
- Scott Simpson, 1987, Olympic Club, 31 (ranked 42nd)
However, in missing 33 other fairways last week, DeChambeau still managed to hit 64 of 72 greens in regulation, a stat that left him tied fifth in last week’s field.
And in shooting a superb final round 67 his score was 7.9 shots less than the overall four-round scoring average of 74.9.
In early July he captured the Rocket Mortgage Classic leading the field with an average of 350.6 years per measured drive. That was 9.6 yards farther than the second-place finisher in that statistic, Cameron Champ.
DeChambeau hit 16 drives that week over 350 yards at Detroit Golf Club, an average of four per round.
Just over a week later, R&A CEO Martin Slumbers remarked: “What is extraordinary is that Bryson isn’t the first one to put on muscle in golf. How he’s able to control the ball, with that extra power, is extraordinary. All credit to him; he’s a true athlete. But I still come back to the belief that golf is a game of skill. And we believe we need to get this balance of skill and technology right.”
Slumbers had earlier in March spoke as a follow-up to the release of the ‘Distance’ report when he remarked: “It’s too simple just to say change the ball. Way too simple. You can do things with the ball. But it’s the relationship between ball and club which is most important to me.”
Nine-time major winning Gary Player expressed his concern that players like DeChambeau would see the famed St. Andrews Old Course become ‘obsolete’ given the distance the golf ball is now being driven.
It led dual Masters and Open champion Sandy Lyle to remark: “The last time I hit a 350-yard was downhill and with a 60 mph wind at my back”.
Looking at DeChambeau’s U.S. Open victory press conference, 12 of 23 questions were related to his physical and mental make-up, including what he thought the reaction will be from the USGA to his victory.
“He’s hitting it forever. That’s why he won,” DeChambeau said smiling.
“I mean, it was a tremendous advantage this week. I kept telling everybody it’s an advantage to hit it farther. It’s an advantage. Mark Broadie was talking to 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.
“So, what I mean by that — let’s take an example of you going like a yard wide. Nobody’s got the fairway. Okay, length’s going to win. You make the fairways too wide, length’s going to win.
“There’s like 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.”
Then there was a very pertinent last question for the 120th U.S. Open winner when asked how much of what he’s achieved since the June 11th return to competition is due to his athleticism and how much is science related.
“Well, the COR (coefficient of restitution or energy lost at impact) was locked in back in 2000 or something like that,” he said.
“You could only have it come off the face (of the golf club) so much, right?
“So, it’s been that way ever since. The rules haven’t changed. People have just gotten a little longer with their driver. The shafts have become better for sustaining higher swing speeds, and we’re constantly trying to just hit it as hard as we possibly can.
“Kyle Berkshire (Current World No. 1 ‘Long Driving’ champion at 406-yards), Justin James (2017 champion at 435-yards), a bunch of those guys, they all inspired me to try and go harder at it.
“They are the ones breaking the barriers. I can see what is possible.
“So that inspires me to keep pushing the limits. I don’t think that science is that — is as big of a role in the market today. I would say it’s more of athleticism playing probably a bigger role for that for sure.
“I was hitting it — on just a normal average Tour player a year ago, and then I all of a sudden got a lot stronger, worked out every day, been working out every day, and all of a sudden — not because of clubs, but because of me, I was able to gain 20, 25 yards.”
And if the USGA and R&A were worried, as they rightfully are, DeChambeau revealed at the top of his press conference: “Next week I’m going to be trying a 48-inch driver.
“We’re going to be messing with some head designs and do some amazing things with Cobra to make it feasible to hit these drives maybe 360, 370, maybe even farther. I don’t know.”
IRISH WORLD RANKINGS – POST US OPEN
Rory McIlroy – No. 4 (unchanged)
Shane Lowry – No. 30 (down 1 spot)
Graeme McDowell – No. 59 (unchanged)
Cormac Sharvin – No. 335 (down 2)
Seamus Power – No. 391 (down 3)
Padraig Harrington – No. 366 (down 14)
Jonathon Caldwell – No. 530 (up 3)
Paul Dunne – No. 604 (down 9)
Gavin Moynihan – No. 733 (down 24)