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Today, I look back at the US Open and explain how Bryson’s single-length wedges were as important to his win as his brute strength.
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Bryson DeChambeau is an absolute goof and a total genius. He plays single-length irons, watches movies to depress his mental reaction to stressful scenes, drinks protein shakes to gain 40 pounds, is messing with a 48-inch driver, uses lasers he believes could be against federal regulations…and is the US Open champion. At Winged Foot. By six.
DeChambeau was incredible on Sunday, overcoming a two-shot deficit to Matt Wolff to start the day by shooting a 3-under 67 that was the only under-par round of the day. He’s only the third US Open champion ever to win with the lone under-par final round in the field. His strategy is disregarding the tiny fairways worked, and he hit his outrageous lines well within a margin of error that worked for his game. There’s pretty much no course long enough or tight enough to stop him when he’s hitting irons, chipping and putting like he did at Winged Foot. The longer and tighter the course, the bigger Bryson’s edge.
So what can the USGA do? Long, firm, fast and narrow has been their thing, right? (With the noteworthy exception of Erin Hills in 2017 and Chambers Bay in 2015.) They need to keep firm and fast, but long and narrow are no longer deterrents with modern equipment and modern styles. Bombers have won 10 of the last 14 combined US Opens and PGA Championships, meaning the average hitter has a much harder time keeping up with their setup. Of course, length dominates on Tour, too. Giving the shorter players a chance means putting shorter clubs in their hands and challenging the bombers to score with wedges to nasty pins on firm, fast putting surfaces.
None of this can hold back a player who was as brilliant as DeChambeau was on Sunday at Winged Foot. Nor could it stop someone like Matt Wolff from shooting 65 on Saturday after hitting just two fairways. The reality is technology, athleticism and execution cannot be stopped with even an exacting setup. So now what?
Bryson’s wedges were the difference
I’m convinced Bryson decided to gain all this weight and all of this speed to avoid hitting irons. He’s not the most reliable iron player, but it doesn’t take three-syllable words or a Ph.D. to realize that hitting a wedge into every hole, regardless of lie, is going to be a huge advantage.
Even when Bryson isn’t playing particularly well, he is taking bogey out of the equation provided he keeps his drive on the planet. Hand him a wedge and let him hit the green. Repeat. Give him shorter irons into long par 3s. Repeat. It’s a pretty simple idea, executed brilliantly.
However, I hadn’t really thought about the impact of single-length wedges on his strategy until this week. They’re 37.5 inches long, like a 7-iron or 6-iron, allowing him to generate more speed compared to 35.5-inch wedge. He can swing stronger and get through the rough easier, allowing him to still hit the ball higher and land pretty softly.
I played a round of golf about two years ago with single-length wedges instead of my standard wedges. It took some time to get used to the change, but it’s a pretty brilliant way to tighten gaps with wedges while simultaneously building more power with the short clubs.
You gotta check out…
Kudos to the USGA: The USGA did a really great job with Winged Foot and the Open. I know there were disappointed viewers because the West Course wasn’t at full strength for the entire field from the start, but in the end, there was just one guy under par. Now, par is a contrived thing, and the course rated at nearly 78, but they delivered on a fair setup that showed off the strengths of one of the best challenges in championship golf.
Jim Furyk is 2-for-2: Jim Furyk has played in two PGA Tour Champions events, and now he has two wins. He won the Pure Insurance Championship on Sunday at Pebble Beach, beating Senior Players champion Jerry Kelly in a playoff. Furyk is plenty long enough on shorter PGA Tour Champions setups, and his iron play sets him up with a lot of scoring chances in a 54-hole shootout. If Phil hasn’t seen the light on these ATM events, Furyk sure has.[/s2If]