U.S. Open Recap: Why DeChambeau Won
Bryson DeChambeau made me eat crow.
His approach of adding 20 pounds of muscle and hitting it further than anyone else, accuracy be damned – even on a stern U.S. Open examination like Winged Foot – proved correct. He annihilated the field and humbled the golf course (and this writer) in the process.
However, his first major championship victory was not all about his mind: he performed brilliantly, excelling at parts of the game at which he normally struggled.
First, he did not lead the tournament in driving distance. He finished seventh, averaging 325.6 yards off the tee. And even though the headlines will read that he won the tournament hitting only 23 fairways in four rounds, that characterization would be specious. With the camber of Winged Foot’s fairways, many a straight drive runs out into the first cut, which from a statistical standpoint counts as a missed fairway but doesn’t meaningfully impact the player’s approach shot. As such, the average driving accuracy at the 2020 U.S. Open was a mere 39%. DeChambeau was actually T26 (out of a field of 144) in driving accuracy, and because he was relatively more accurate than his competitors, he finished third in strokes gained off the tee at +5.38.
Second, he hit his single-length irons beautifully, sporting an also third best +6.98 strokes gained approach. An illustration of his dominant iron play was on Winged Foot’s very demanding par 3s, on which Bryson played in two under par for the week while his opponents averaged four over. This success at Winged Foot was an outlier from his 119th ranking during the 2020 PGA tour season.
Third, the weakest part of DeChambeau’s game – or so went this author’s thinking – is usually his play around the greens, where he ranked 111th in strokes gained coming into the U.S. Open. He flipped the script with his four rounds at Winged Foot, gaining 5.42 strokes around the greens – a showing only bested by Xander Schauffele (+5.47).
Finally, he was 18th in strokes gained putting at +4.59.
In other words, it wasn’t all about his strategy of transmogrifying into a long-drive champion. He executed all aspects of his game with aplomb. However, with one major championship on his trophy mantle, and the possibility of introducing a 48-inch driver at Augusta – making him even longer off the tee – the mad scientist will make exciting theatre at The Masters in November.
-- Written by Hot Rodz