The Many Questions Raised by Bryson DeChambeau

By: | Mon 06 Jul 2020 | Comments

WHO would you rather watch - Rory McIlroy or Bryson DeChambeau? I don’t believe that somebody who has turned himself into a man mountain capable of propelling the ball 375 yards can possibly be good for the game. I say this after watching him win the Rocket Mortgage Classic with my jaw on the floor. His power is astonishing and he plays a game with which most of us are unfamiliar.

But McIlroy gets my vote every single time purely and simply because he is a natural. He stands barely 5ft 9in tall and weighs about 12st and when he stands over the golf ball you can be sure of one thing - there is not a single swing thought in his head. Yes, he visualises the shots he wants to hit but, other than that, his brain is free. Oh, and when he speaks to the media you can actually understand what he has to say. Likewise, his on-course conversations with caddie Harry Diamond.

DeChambeau is the polar opposite. Nothing about him or the way he plays the game is natural. Is there anybody in the professional game who puts himself through so much before he strikes the ball? Kevin Na, possibly.

I also fear for his future. No golfer who swings the club with the violence exerted by the young American can possibly get through his career without injury. No mater how fit he may be. Just look at what happened to Tiger Woods, golf’s first proper gym bunny. He has spent much of the past 15 years battling back, neck and leg injuries. The same thing will surely happen to DeChambeau. The scariest thing of all is that he says he isn’t finished yet. He describes himself as a work in progress.

Before I go any further, it needs to be said that I would never advocate that everybody swings the club the same way. The likes of Bubba Watson, Matt Wolff, Cameron Champ, even Jordan Spieth all have techniques that are entirely their own. Watson famously boasts that he has never had a golf lesson in his life. But he is blessed with astonishing hands that allow him to shape the ball at will. Wolff and Champ are the same.

DeChambeau’s swing is all done by numbers - on every single shot that he plays. He may well have developed astonishing strength and clubhead speed but he still has little or no feel with the shots that really matter. He routinely flies wedges 20 yards over the green.

And his putting stroke? He spends forever working out the line before he anchors the shaft against his left forearm. Compare it with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods or Patrick Reed, three of the best putters on the planet, and men who all do it by feel. They can look at the line of a putt, visualise it in their mind. DeChambeau is incapable of doing this. And admits it.

Heaven help us all if he can ever put that right.

You also get the impression that after he has played 18 holes his brain must hurt because of all the mental effort he puts himself through. It really doesn’t appear that he enjoys himself very much.

And he did himself few favours during the third round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He hit a poor bunker shot and took out his frustration on the sand. Unsurprisingly, he was being filmed, and took exception to the fact, turning on a cameraman who was simply doing his job.

In an extraordinary outburst afterwards, DeChambeau talked about wanting to see players being protected.

“He was literally watching me the whole entire way up after getting out of the bunker, walking up next to the green. And I just was like, ‘Sir, what is the need to watch me that long?’” DeChambeau said. “I mean, I understand it’s his job to video me, but at the same point, I think we need to start protecting our players out here compared to showing a potential vulnerability and hurting someone’s image. I just don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”

“As much as we’re out here performing, I think it’s necessary that we have our times of privacy as well when things aren’t going our way,” DeChambeau said. “I mean, we’re in the spotlight, but if somebody else is in the spotlight they wouldn’t want that either.

“I feel like when you’re videoing someone and you catch Tiger at a bad time, you show him accidentally doing something, or someone else, they’re just frustrated because they really care about the game. It could really hurt them if they catch you at a potentially vulnerable time.

“We don’t mean anything by it, we just care a lot about the game. For that to damage our brand like that, that’s not cool in the way we act because if you actually meet me in person, I’m not too bad of a dude, I don’t think.”

I am sorry Bryson, but if you have claims to be one of the best golfers in the world then you are just going to have to get used to having your every move filmed. It goes with the territory. Plain and simple.

I hold my hands up. I am a traditionalist and I agree with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Nick Faldo when they say that something has to be done to rein in the distances today’s top professionals now hit the ball. Whatever happened to finesse? Whatever happened to the ability to manipulate the golf ball left or right, to be able to keep it down when playing into the wind?

As much as I admire McIlroy and enjoy watching him play, I was staggered when, after struggling at Colonial and Harbour Town he announced that the courses didn’t suit his game. Let me remind you - and him - that he is the world No1. You would never, ever hear Woods telling you that a course is too tough. Nicklaus and Faldo relished the challenge. The tougher the course, the better they enjoyed it.

It seems that most of today’s top players turn up at courses and expect to simply overpower them. Bunkers have become obsolete. They hit the ball so far that it no longer concerns them if they find the rough from the tee. DeChambeau knows that he can muscle the ball onto the green with those huge forearms and massive leg muscles.

I am not saying that we should be banning golfers from gymnasiums. Why wouldn’t they want to gain whatever possible advantage they can over their rivals?

But I do believe that the powers-that-be have got to do something about the equipment the pros use - and they have got to do it quickly.

The simplest solution, of course, is to address the design of the golf ball. Why can’t we see the introduction of golf balls that do not and will not possibly travel 375 yards?

In the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, DeChambeau hit nine irons for his approaches to two par fives. It is a nonsense. Whatever happened to par fives that required a driver, fairway wood and wedge?

And clearly there is a limit to what can be done to defend courses. We cannot just go on lengthening them. Who wants to see courses measuring 8,500 yards? Not your average amateur, that’s for sure.

It is worth noting that many of the world’s best par threes are the shortest ones, not those that measure 250 yards. The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, the seventh hole at Pebble Beach and the 17th at Sawgrass are all holes that require a wedge but clever flag positions on tricky greens, good bunkering, swirling winds and water mean that even the best golfers in the world would stand on the tee and, offered a par three, would happily walk to the next tee.

So, is it just me?

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