By Brian Keogh
Graeme McDowell. Photo by Golffile
Graeme McDowell hopes there's no "over-reaction" to Bryson DeChambeau's change-changing US Open win at Winged Foot, insisting that the equipment and the ball are not to blame.
"I think you have to take your hat off to Bryson DeChambeau and say he certainly has not been a follower," said McDowell, who missed his fourth cut in a row and his seventh in nine starts at the US Open.
"He has cut his own path through the sort of wooded forest of professional golf in trying to work out how to kind of be the best.
"I certainly have no criticism of him at all. I think he's done a fantastic job. He's not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but like I said, a huge amount of respect for what he's accomplished and what he's doing.
"In regards to what this means for the game of golf, I don't know. I don't think we have an equipment problem. I don't think we have a golf ball problem.
"I think we're in an era where guys are getting stronger and better and working out how to take advantage of the abilities that this equipment and the technology and the capabilities of the human body to be able to drive it like a long drive guy but to be able to compete and play golf at the highest level on the PGA TOUR.
"Listen, hats off... I hope there's not an overreaction to this."
Rather than head home to tee it up in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, the Portrush man is in the Dominican Republic to defend his Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and hoping to perform better than he has since golf resumed on the PGA Tour in June following the Covid-19 hiatus, missing seven of nine cuts.
"Coming into THE PLAYERS Championship, I felt like I was playing pretty well," he said. "I enjoyed the break, it was great to spend time with the family, it was great to kind of focus on some other things, but at the same time maybe took my eye off the ball with golf just for a second and when we came back I struggled a little bit," said McDowell, who will return to Europe for the Scottish Open and the BMW PGA next month.
"I struggled to play well, I struggled kind of with the lack of intensity out here, the lack of crowds, just the general environment has been different and I haven't done a really good job kind of adapting to that.
"But guys are getting it done every week, so there's no point trying to make excuses about it. I've got to work out how to make myself better and how to deal with this, because this could be like this for the foreseeable future."
He sees this week's event as an opportunity to right the ship as it was where he turned his career around last season with a one-shot win over Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes giving him his first victory for four years.
As for DeChambeau, he wonders what he might achieve at venues such as Augusta National and St Andrews if he's driving the ball 360 yards.
"I hope we don't see Bryson proofing," he said. "I saw something on social media the other day which kind of just sort of plotted out his potential round around Augusta. If it was flat calm and conditions were right, what he would hit to every hole looked kind of ridiculous.
"Listen, I get worried when I see holes like 17 at St. Andrews bumped 50 yards back. When you've got iconic golf holes, not only St. Andrews, like if Bryson got flat calm at St. Andrews right now, it would be silly what he could do to the golf course. It would be kind of embarrassing, unfortunately.
“Thankfully, there's more to golf than just that because St. Andrews has more defence than just its length, it has weather, it has firmness, it has rough, it has pin position. At the end of the day, it's not just Bryson DeChambeau hitting it a long way.
"We have lots of guys hitting it a very, very long way. I kind of feel like a lot of attention's been focused on him because of how vocal he is about what he's done and the way he's changed his body and the way he's going after the ball.
"He's not the only guy hits it a long way out there, but certainly what he did to Winged Foot last week was very interesting. I think it suited his style of play because he has such an upright action, so he was able to kind of bomb it way up there in the rough and be able to control the ball out of the rough.
"Unfortunately, I was watching from the couch on the weekend because I played reasonably rubbish on Thursday and Friday. But I was more impressed about the way he controlled the ball out of the rough rather than the way he drove the ball. It was just impressive.
"Like I say, I think that speaks to the way he swings the club and how upright his action is. Like I say, hats off, it was pretty impressive."