By E Michael Johnson
Coming into the 120th U.S. Open, it was questioned if Bryson DeChambeau’s bomb-and-gouge style of play could work at a U.S. Open venue where the fairways are narrower and the rough meatier than a typical tour event. His six-shot win at Winged Foot answered that question, but there is one other query we sought to answer: Just how much of an advantage did DeChambeau own over his closest competitors?
We looked at Sunday’s round and found three distinct examples where DeChambeau’s length off the tee provided a significant advantage over Matthew Wolff, Harris English, Louis Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele, four players who rounded out the top-five finishers and were, in effect, the only players with a legitimate chance of catching DeChambeau.
The par-5 ninth (above) is perhaps the only true hole where players expect to make a birdie at Winged Foot (a three at the short par-4 sixth is nice, but par is fine). Make par at the ninth and you feel like you’ve given something back. DeChambeau unloaded a 374.7-yard bomb that left him with 182 in—a yardage he covered with a pitching wedge—leading to an eagle 3. The other four averaged 338.25 off the tee, leaving 220.5 in. Take out Wolff’s 388.5-yard blast that also led to eagle and the other three averaged 321.5 yards, leaving them approximately 50 yards short of DeChambeau. That trio accounted for two birdies and a par. Modest advantage, DeChambeau.
The 365-yard par-4 11th (above) is perhaps the starkest illustration of where the power game came into play. A pair of bunkers guard the fairway about 300 yards out. While his challengers all laid up with an average tee shot of 236 yards, leaving 129 yards in, DeChambeau whaled away, producing a 319.8-yard tee shot that left him with a paltry 44 yards to the pin, from which he knocked it to 12 feet, 7 inches and made birdie. The other four’s average approach ended up 23 feet, 6 inches from where only one, English, made birdie, allowing DeChambeau to make up a full stroke on the others.
At the 16th (above), DeChambeau let go another laser—this one 365 yards that bit off a good chunk of the dogleg left, leaving 137 yards in. The other four averaged 297.25 off the tee and had approaches averaging 217.45 yards—that’s an 80-yard difference. DeChambeau made par while the others were three over par in aggregate, or a pickup of about three-quarters of a shot on his nearest challengers.
DeChambeau’s win at Winged Foot’s famed West Course was dominant in many respects. His six-shot margin of victory tied for the sixth-largest spread in the last 100 years. He picked up more than 21 strokes on the field average and his three-under-par 67 Sunday was the only subpar score of the day. It also underscored how much of a benefit being superior off the tee distance-wise can be. As DeChambeau himself said afterwards, “It’s always an advantage pretty much anywhere.”