Sports Minute: In the thick of it: DeChambeau ready to rip at U.S. Open
By JIMMY GOLENAP Sports Writer
The matchup to watch at Winged Foot this week could be Bryson DeChambeau’s thick biceps against the USGA’s thick rough.
Golf’s long-hitting mad scientist said he plans to use his driver plenty when the pandemic-delayed U.S. Open tees off in Mamaroneck, New York, starting Thursday. Despite the narrow fairways and potentially penalizing rough along the par-70, 7,477 yard course, DeChambeau insisted that he won’t be playing it safe off the tee.
“I’m hitting it as far as I possibly can up there,” he said. “There’s certain holes I might lay up on just because of the situation, but for the most part I’m going to be trying to go after it as much as I possibly can."
DeChambeau, who turned 27 on Wednesday, was already a pretty big hitter when he decided to gain 40 pounds of muscle mass this year to help fuel a swing speed that propels his drives at 200 mph. It’s paying off: He is leading the tour in driving distance, with an average of 322.1 yards; in the second round of the Travelers, his tee shot off No. 10 went 422 yards -- the sixth-longest drive on tour all year.
DeChambeau faltered during the FedEx Cup playoffs after a strong summer run, including a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship — his only top 10 in a major.
But this is the U.S. Open.
“Our U.S. Open DNA is about placing a premium on accuracy off the teeing area,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior director of championships. “We think that premium — by driving a player to drive his ball into the fairway and hit his approach shot from the fairway onto these magnificent putting green complexes and keeping the ball below the hole — is key.”
Bodenhamer said the USGA will “let Winged Foot be Winged Foot” -- in other words, they don’t need to do anything to make the course tougher. At Merion, they narrowed the fairways and made the rough super thick; at Shinnecock, they put the pins in tough spots as the greens were baking out.
But at Winged Foot, the doglegs, deep bunkers and complex greens are enough of a challenge that grass growing some 5 inches along the fairway should be more than enough of a test.
“It’s really not about what the rough entails, it’s about getting the ball in the fairway,” Bodehamer said. “That the more off-line you are, the more penalty you’re going to face.”
Dechambeau will put that to the test.
“Even if I hit it in the rough, I still feel like I can make birdies out here,” he said.
Defending champion Gary Woodland said he thinks the course will be a “huge advantage” for players like himself and DeChambeau, who would be hitting wedges out of the rough. Those who might need to pull out a 7-iron won't be able to get enough speed through the heavy grass to reach the green.
“I don’t think the long hitters really ever get penalized because of rough," Woodland said. "Because I think you’re going to have a huge advantage any time you get the golf ball in the fairway.”
Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2011, also thinks the long hitters have the advantage -- if they can also keep it straight.
“It’s the way that the modern game has went: The longer you can hit it, the more advantage you have,” he said. “But I’d still take hitting fairways over hitting it 350 in the rough here.”
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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