Workday Charity Open
July 9th – 12th, 2020
Muirfield Village G.C.
Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,456
Purse: $6.2 million
with $1,116,000 to the winner
This is a first-year event
We had a feeling at Colonial that things were going to be different on tour when we saw all the muscle that Bryson DeChambeau had put on, but more on how far he was hitting the ball. We know in the history of sports, the long ball gets a lot of attention, hey remember 22 years ago the big home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Then a few years later Barry Bonds, who despite the steroid controversy, pasted Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron to be the all-time homerun leader. These things help bring baseball back from all the labor disputes and shorten season. I think we could be seeing the same on the PGA Tour with DeChambeau this week. At Rocket Mortgage he averaged 329.8 on all 56 driving holes which was 10.1 yard longer per drive than Cameron Champ who averaged 319.7. DeChambeau didn’t have the longest drive of the week, that honor went to Tyler McCumber who in the seocnd round hit one 386 yards on the 16th hole. But DeChambeau was still active of the top-52 drives of the week between 354 yards and McCumber’s 386 yard drive, DeChambeau did 14 of the 52 drives. Jim Nantz on CBS had the stat of the day when he figured out in the final round that DeChambeau’s 14 drives in the final round was 423 yards longer than his playing partner Troy Merritt. We are now seeing that what DeChambeau is doing is not of fluke of nature, but something historical.
Golf has seen the popularity of the long ball over the years, first with Jack Nicklaus 58 years ago when he came on tour and then in 1991 when John Daly won the PGA Championship to the astonishment of the golfing world. Then in 1996 when Tiger Woods turned pro, the prospect of him hitting it so far and with his stellar game scared many to the point that the term “Tiger-proofing” was used to try and make courses he played harder.
Frankly, there is a big difference between Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, and Tiger Woods game. While Nicklaus and Woods were great iron players, great putters just great players, Daly had a good touch around the greens and could putt at times, but he never came close to playing like Nicklaus and Woods. Daly only won five times on the PGA Tour and the highest he got on the Official World Golf Ranking was 23rd in 2005.
One of the biggest elements of what Bryson DeChambeau is doing, it’s not the results of new technology in either a new driver or shaft. What John Daly and Tiger Woods did in driving distance was lost to the fact that in the 90s technology changed the game for all, not only did Daly and Woods hit it far, but with the right equipment in the right hands, half the players on tour were able to keep up with Daly and Woods. Still, Tiger Woods hitting driving and wedges on holes was a big advantage over a Corey Pavin hitting drivers and 4-irons into holes. The big changed we have seen in the last dozen years is how Woods and many others from Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy to Brooks Keopka were able to not only hit it long but hit it straight. Not only did equipment accomplish this, but the top players also perfected physical fitness routines which help them put muscles in the right place to help them gain valuable yards.
But there was no secret to all of this, every player on the PGA Tour can not only get the right equipment but have it tailor-made for their body and swing. The same with players bulking up in the gyms. The only unfortunate aspect of all this, if you were under say five foot, ten the odds are reduced. So the chances of a Ben Hogan who was only 5 foot, 8 are slim just like a 5 foot, 8 quarterback in the NFL.
So last month at Colonial when we saw the additional weight that Bryson DeChambeau put on and how easy it was for him to hit it over 330 regularly, he had the secret potion that nobody else had. So for the first time since Tiger Woods in 2000, players on tour now realize they are at a disadvantage that can’t be made up by changing equipment or the golf ball. One thing other players could do to add distance is to change the degree of loft on their drivers. On the PGA Tour it averages between 7 and 8 degrees of loft, DeChambeau uses a Cobra driver with only 5.5 degrees of loft, something that an average player couldn’t use.
The big question is if this whole thing is real and will last? The one thing about DeChambeau, he is a streaky player. Look at his play at the end of the 2018 season when he not only won the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies back to back but three starts later he won the Shriners Hospitals in Las Vegas and four starts later won the Dubai Desert Classic. But on the other end of the spectrum, when things go bad, they can go really bad for Bryce. After his Dubai win in 2019, starting with his T-15th finish at Genesis in his next ten starts he struggled not being able to finish in the top-19 and missed three straight cuts on tight golf courses. The main question for DeChambeau is if he can win a PGA Championship at Harding Park or a U.S. Open at Winged Foot? Yes, he won at Muirfield Village and Ridgewood C.C. in New Jersey, both tough old-style courses he won on in 2018. But in 14 starts in majors, he only has one top-20 finish, T-15th in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. So DeChambeau still has a lot to prove.
The most important thing happening now is we have to wonder if all of the work Bryce has put in will lead to more consistency along with better play in majors. It’s easy to point out that since the break, DeChambeau has a T-3rd, T-8th, T-6th, and win in the four starts. But people tend to forget that before the break he finished T-5th at the Genesis, 2nd at the WGC-Mexico Championship and 4th at the Arnold Palmer. DeChambeau is taking this week off and will return the following week at Memorial and we will see if the streak continues or not.
Another hot player is Webb Simpson who finished T-8th in Detroit, which came after his win at Harbour Town, but he isn’t playing this week. One that is playing and did well last week is Matthew Wolff who was runner-up in Detroit. He had a terrible start in the final round, but thanks to four birdies in his last six holes he was able to get a second-place finish. Another player to watch this week is Ryan Armour who was T-8th at Travelers and T-4th at Rocket Mortgage. Key for Armour is a game really coming along in more than one key category. At Rocket Mortgage, Armour was 5th in Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green, 5th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, and T-5th in Par Breakers. The previous week at the Travelers, Armour was 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting and was T-5th in Strokes Gained Total so all parts of his game are ticking well. In his last two starts at Muirfield Village was T-23rd in 2018 and T-22nd last year.
Viktor Hovland is also playing well as he makes his first start at Muirfield Village, he was T-12th at Rocket Mortgage, T-11th at Travelers, T-21st at Heritage and T-23rd at Colonial.
Some other players at Muirfield Village coming off good starts of late, Cameron Champ, who thought he had Coronavirus but didn’t was T-12th at Rocket Mortgage and T-14th at Charles Schwab. Also watch Maverick Meekly who finished T-8th at Rocket Mortgage after playing his last 15 holes in seven-under at Rocket.
Oh, two that shouldn’t be passed over this week is Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka. For Cantlay he is defending Memorial champion next week and should have good weeks at both Workday and Memorial. As for Koepka, we have seen his game steadily get better, his last start he was T-7th at RBC Heritage. He was supposed to play at Travelers and withdrew since he was in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19. He is fine and I think will be very good in the next two weeks.
So what do you folks think? You can leave your thoughts below and we can see what we think