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US Open 2020 Reveiw: A Victory for Science

2020 US Open

It finally happened. The mad scientist Bryson DeChambeau has been the content king of the golf world post-restart, and he finally took home a major. But despite how it feels, it really wasn’t “finally” for Bryson. He’s only been a pro for a little over four years. This was only his sixteenth major start. Post-restart, though, it seemed like it was only a matter of time. Early in the year, he had a streak of seven straight top-10s. Four of those were post-restart, and he capped the streak off with a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. A few weeks later, he finished tied for fourth in the PGA Championship. His excessively muscular frame led to bombs off the tee, and he was finally able to take advantage of that in dominant fashion this week at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot.

Bryson’s Brilliance

While Bryson’s bombs were, as usual, the talk of the tournament, they weren’t the only reason he won. In fact, he was only seventh in driving distance this past week. Dustin Johnson led, averaging 333.6 yards, and tournament runner-up Matthew Wolf was runner-up in this category as well, averaging 333.5 yards. A look at some advanced metrics shows that Bryson’s victory was due to a lot more than protein shakes.

DeChambeau finished top-three in strokes gained off the tee, on the approach and around the green this week. He was third off the tee and on the approach and second around the green, so he didn’t truly dominate in any one category. While his putting wasn’t quite on par with the rest of his game, he still finished a respectable 18th in strokes gained putting. All in all, he put in a very strong all-around performance to get the win, despite the common narrative of him overpowering the course.

US Open
Despite the new muscles, Bryson didn’t just overpower the course at this week’s US Open (via The Dallas Morning News)

Of course, that isn’t to say he didn’t overpower the course at all. DeChambeau hit only 23 of 56 fairways this week. With the rough being so difficult to play from, how could this have resulted in winning golf? The general idea for Bryson seemed to be knowing where he could miss. While he hit the least amount of fairways of a US Open winner ever, everyone seemed to be struggling with accuracy this week. DeChambeau was only 26th in fairways hit, not far behind other contenders. What he did was put himself in positions to have straightforward wedge shots to large parts of the green, giving himself plenty of room for error. More often than not, this led to straightforward pars, something that was a luxury at the 2020 US Open.

The Course

To some, the thrill of the US Open is that the best golfers in the world can look like hackers. Round one was a disappointment to fans of high scores, as 21 golfers managed to get under par for the day. Three of those golfers didn’t even make the cut. With Patrick Reed leading at -4 after 36 holes, the cut was set at +6. Only six golfers were under par heading into the weekend.

That’s when everything went a bit wild. Matthew Wolf dominated Saturday, finishing at -5 65, but besides that, high scores were in abundance. Reed went from the lead to 11th place after a +7 77, but Louis Oosthuizen hung around, finishing at -2 for the day to get to -1 for the tournament, four back of the lead. DeChambeau was even for the day, two back of Wolf.

Come Sunday, there was only one survivor. Bryson DeChambeau was the only man to finish under par on the day (-3 67), getting him to -6 for the tournament. Wolf shot a disappointing +5 75, eliminating any drama. While in 2006 the course dominated all those who tested it, even the winner, this year, Bryson managed to remain unscathed. His worst round of the week was even par.

Tiger (and Phil) Watch

For the first time ever, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both missed the cut at the US Open (via Kyle Porter at CBS). For Phil, this was supposed to be his redemption after his choke 14 years ago, but it was doomed from the start. A Thursday 79 meant that he faced an uphill battle just to play this weekend, but he couldn’t do enough. He improved, sure, but a Friday 74 was far from good enough to make the cut. His quest to finish the career grand slam seems destined to fail at this point. He’s now on the wrong side of 50 and hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since February 2019 at Pebble Beach. Before wins in 2018 and 2019 each, he went nearly five years without winning on Tour.

Tiger had similar struggles to Lefty. An opening round 73 meant that he was not only likely to make the cut, but that he could contend. Scores were pretty wild, so anything was possible. That went out the window on day two. A Friday 77 put him six strokes outside the cut line, sending him home early.

Tour Championship
Two rough rounds saw Tiger exit the US Open early (via Getty Images)

“There’s still one major to go, and my title defense at Sherwood. We have a couple big, big things ahead of us,” Tiger said. While the tournament was moved from Japan, Tiger will defend his title at the ZOZO Championship. What’s a little surprising is that he won’t be playing anywhere else. There’s a west coast swing ending at the ZOZO in October that seemed like the perfect way to shake off some rust and still get some rest before the Masters, but Tiger seems to have other plans. As for Phil, with the curtain closing on his career, he seems likely to play in as many tournaments as he can. Expect him to take next week in Punta Cana off, but after that he will likely compete in a few different events. How successful he is remains to be seen.

Looking Ahead

After the 2020 US Open, there’s a bit of a break in the 2020/21 PGA Tour schedule. This upcoming week is in Punta Cana, but a small purse (less than a third of the 2020 US Open’s) means stars will likely stay away. After that is another smaller tournament in Jackson, Mississippi, before the west coast run. Two tournaments in Vegas are followed by the ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club in California. That’s followed by another small purse event at Port Royal GC in Bermuda and then the Houston Open. Then, of course, is the Masters.

Expect to see few stars week one in Vegas, but a lot more the week after. The CJ Cup, like the ZOZO, was part of the Tour’s Asia leg, but moved due to the pandemic. It has the biggest purse left of any non-Masters tournament in 2020, so it will likely be star-studded. With Tiger at Sherwood the week after, other stars might show up for the ZOZO, too. Then it’s on to the last major of the year.

 

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