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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Power and patience

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We had to wait a little longer than normal to see the 2020 U.S. Open, but it was worth the anticipation. A stacked field on a classic course where, for the first time in a while, the USGA got the set-up totally right. The course played difficult, but fair. Long, penal rough and undulated greens kept the world’s best off-balance while still rewarding solid golf shots.

The West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club proved a true test of golf and when the dust settled, only a single player remained under par. Bryson DeChambeau was the lone player to conquer the beast, displaying a unique balance of power and patience that the golf world hasn’t previously seen.

By now, the golf world knows how DeChambeau changed his body dramatically, particularly to chase these kinds of championships, and while sometimes he seems too smart for his own good, this time his calculations were right on. One certainly cannot fault his work ethic. Ridiculed for being a slow player, he has worked to improve. Take away his protractor and he finds another way to read greens. Though putting and short game were a weak point, he has improved. His body transformation was just another calculated risk from the golfing scientist after working hard with Chris Como to get his game just right.

However, winning a U.S. Open at Winged Foot takes more than just power. It took patience. DeChambeau outlasted the field by minimizing mistakes and capitalizing on scoring chances. But it would be misleading to say that this wasn’t a case of bomb and gouge. That is exactly what DeChambeau did, hitting just over 41 percent of his fairways for the week.

What happened?

U.S. Open rough is supposed to be the great equalizer. It is supposed to put a premium on ball striking and fairways and traditional golf values, but it failed.

How?

DeChambeau made an interesting comment in one of his many interviews this week when he said something along the lines of “If I’m going to miss the fairway anyway, I might as well hit it out there.” This statement ended up being fairly prophetic. DeChambeau finished T26th in fairways. Not surprising. However, what he realized early on was that everyone was going to miss the narrow, hard, and fast fairways at Winged Foot. Only 11 players in the entire field hit more than 50 percent of their fairways. Only two of those 11 finished in the top 10 (Rory McIlroy and Harris English). DeChambeau was able to overpower a course that many did not think could be overpowered. Using V1 Game’s advanced analysis, we can see that he averaged over 300 yards per drive every round of the U.S. Open.

There are really three areas that impact driving performance. In order of importance they are:

  • Minimizing mistakes: Do not drive into penalty or recovery situations
  • Distance: Getting closer to the hole for the next shot
  • Accuracy: Getting a better lie

While the driving performance plot from the new V1 Game Virtual Coach shows that DeChambeau was certainly long and accurate enough, the Mistakes view gives an idea of where he gave strokes away. His number of mistakes would be high for a typical week on the PGA Tour, but they are exceptional for a U.S. Open. DeChambeau did not take a single penalty, only four times did he drive into a recovery situation, and in each of those he was still able to advance the ball more than 75 yards. Therefore, DeChambeau did very well in V1 Game’s three keys to driving. He did have three three-putts on the week, but so did much of the field.

Overall, DeChambeau putted well, finishing 18th in the field for Strokes Gained Putting. He gained strokes putting in every round except for the third. Using the V1 Game Post Round Summary for the third round, we can see that he lost strokes because of two three-putts and two short misses inside six ft. His three putts were from 30-50 feet, which is not unexpected on the difficult greens at Winged Foot, but the easy-to-digest output guides DeChambeau on where he needs to focus his putting practice.

Adding it all up, where DeChambeau really won the tournament was on the ninth hole. In the final round, he sank a 38-foot putt for an eagle at a critical time when Matthew Wolff had roughly 10 feet for the same. While Wolff also sank his eagle putt, DeChambeau’s putt had to be deflating as he maintained his one-stroke advantage and momentum going into the back nine, where Wolff finally faded. DeChambeau eagled the hole twice on the week, accounting for two of his 15 under-par holes. Only 16 other players had an eagle in the tournament and no other player had two or more. When under par holes are at such a premium, eagles go that much further. DeChambeau succeeded with long drives and accurate irons.

DeChambeau was already a good young player before he bulked up, but he may be a great player now. In addition to his prodigious distance, his short game and putting are improving. His ability to scramble throughout the U.S. Open was critical to maintain momentum and keep blemishes off his card. U.S. Opens are often just as much about avoiding bogey as they are making par and DeChambeau did just that by minimizing damage and making nothing worse than bogey. A truly impressive performance by one of the game’s hardest-working tour pros.

DeChambeau did not just stumble into better golf. He accomplished it by setting goals, measuring progress, and looking at data. If you are ready to put in work on your game, V1 Game has all the tools to help you do the same. Actionable data and measurable results. Let V1 Game’s all-new Virtual Coach and Virtual Caddie help you bomb it like Bryson.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Joe Legendre – Legend Golf Company

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In Episode 26 Glenn is back and we interview the owner of Legend Golf Company, Joe Legendre.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 141: The (golf) show must go on!

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Host Michael Williams has breaking news on The PGA Merchandise Show going virtual in 2021 from Marc Simon of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Also features John Buboltz with the latest putters and irons from Argolf.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Ball rollback isn’t the right move to combat “The Golfer of Tomorrow”

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The announcing crew at the 2020 U.S. Open seemed obsessed with “the bombers”—players who drove the ball extreme distances with little regard for the occasional tee shot into the rough. TV has selected Bryson DeChambeau as their representative, given his length and victory.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the industry sources had to say. I can’t say it’s unanimous, because I haven’t seen everything, but the theme is: “Get Ready for The Golfer of Tomorrow”

  • 350-yard carry
  • Clubhead speed which tears through the rough allowing the ball to launch high and carry to the green
  • The ‘new’ instructor who teaches distance be it ground up or whatever new method is used
  • Gym sessions producing athletes who look more like football players
  • And last, a whole new shelf of steroids for golf

At the same time the USGA and its organizational allies are planning meetings focusing on not if the ball will be rolled back, but when—clearly, influenced by visual evidence from a great Winged Foot course in our national championship.

Let’s look deeper!

A hypothetical: go back a few months. You are on the planning committee for the U.S. Open to be held at Winged Foot, one of America’s great venues. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no galleries, something never experienced at a USGA major golf event. I repeat, your committee is planning for the U.S. Open. That implies “Open Rough” a term that is significant on its own. You don’t play from Open Rough, you escape…maybe.

The nature of Open Rough is a thick chunky base with long tendrils reaching skyward. These make it very difficult to find your ball in the best of circumstances and when attempting to advance these tendrils wrap themselves around your hosel closing the face, sending your ball deeper into hostile territory. That’s if you can even find it, Open rough has “disappeared” many balls over the years and done so within full view of gallery spectators aiding course marshals. The rule of thumb for competitors has always been to find the most reasonable patch of fairway and get out.

But this is the year of COVID-19. No galleries. Marshals, but relatively few because of no galleries. Now, considering that normal U.S. Open rough will produce many searches where marshals are important, the shortage of them will cause endless searches—which don’t make for great TV viewing. So, a decision is made, cut the rough down so shots can be found. Still in the rough but sitting on the chunky base and very often can be played. A tough call for the purist but an objective economic evaluation leaves no choice.

The announcers regale us with astonishing distances and swing speeds that allow escape from Open Rough that used to be impossible! The golf publications jump on this theme and predict that the Golfer of Tomorrow will be “DeChambeau-like” not sweet swingers but physical hulks rewriting the book on distance strongly influenced by no fear of the rough.

My point here is those publications and instructors, jumping on the “longer and slightly crooked is better” bandwagon have added 2+2 and gotten 5 when using the 2020 U.S. Open as a premise.

DeChambeau is a great and powerful player, however, I don’t think he’s known for his putting. Now I may have dozed off but I don’t remember him being widely praised for his putting. He should have been, it was terrific, probably influenced his score! He is our National Champion, an unsurpassable honor. But his style has me betting that the USGA is working on dates to discuss changing the golf ball, as in making it shorter.

I’m 100% against such a move. Golf is a game where amateurs can go to the same course play the same clubs and given a huge difference in skill achieve some measure of affiliation with the pros. A birdie is a birdie, not a long or short ball birdie. From a business perspective, the overwhelming majority of those golfers financially supporting golf are over 50. And we want them to hit it shorter?

Well, Mr. Adams what would you do? I know zero about golf ball manufacturing, but keeping the distance the same I’d change the dimples to increase curvature—just enough so it doesn’t affect slower swings that much but very high swing speeds so it’s in the player’s head

More thoughts. As an admitted TV viewer, get rid of those yardage books. Fine for practice rounds but when the bell rings it should be player and caddie, not an “on green” conference. What’s next, a staff meeting?

I’ll conclude with a note to the PGA Tour and, importantly, an admonition. To the PGA Tour: The minute a tee goes into the ground on #1 every player is on the clock. Stroke penalties, not fines, will get their attention.

To the rest of the golfing world: Let’s not blindly pursue the Golfer of Tomorrow concept without considerably deeper study.

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