September 17th – 20th, 2020
Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course)
Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,477
Purse: $12.5 million
with $2,250,000 to the Bryson
So what does the U.S. Open tell us on how we pick our fantasy golfers in the future?
It’s too bad that there were no fans in attendance at the Winged Foot because what they would have seen was historic. Those that got to watch Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters and the 2000 U.S. Open know what I mean. Both of those events started golf on a different trend, one in which Tiger won most of the time. To think that between Tiger’s first professional start at the Milwaukee Open in 1996 and his last start in 2009, Tiger played in 239 events. In those tournaments, Tiger won 71 times (that’s 30% of his starts), was second 27 times (that’s 9% of his starts), and was in the top-five 138 times (that’s 58% of his starts).
As for Bryson DeChambeau, he has played in 106 PGA Tour events since turning pro just after the 2016 Masters. He has now won 7 times (that’s 7% of his starts) and has been in the top-ten 27 times (25% of his starts). Of course these totals aren’t anywhere close to Tiger’s numbers, but if you look at the PGA Tour since the beginning of 2016, his 7% win ratio is second to Justin Thomas, who has won 13 times in 151 starts for a 9% win ratio. For those wondering, Dustin Johnson has won 14 times, but in 220 starts (6% win ratio), and Rory McIlroy, who has won 7 times in 168 starts. The point is with Bryson winning at Winged Foot, it could open the flood doors to other victories.
What Bryson did in winning at Winged Foot is now have more folks believing in him. I, for one, would never bet a penny on Bryson on a challenging, rough filled course. Just look at what happened on tough courses with thick rough. Yes, he was T-4th at the PGA Championship, but he was 50th and struggled at the BMW Championship. He missed the cut at the Memorial in July, and let’s look at his major record. Before his T-4th at the PGA Championship, DeChambeau’s best finish in 14 events was T-15th in the 2016 U.S. Open. But of the 14 starts before the PGA Championship, he only made eight cuts in 14 starts. So we can say he will now be a favorite in any major he played.
In looking at Bryson’s numbers from Winged Foot, we all know that he only hit 23 of the 56 fairways. Since stats at the U.S. Open have been kept starting in 1980, the worst performance has been Angel Cabrera, who hit just 27 fairways at Oakmont in 2007. Tiger Woods is next with only 30 fairways hit at Torrey Pines in 2008, and then Scott Simpson at Olympic in 1987 and Webb Simpson at Olympic in 2012 both hit 31 fairways. In looking at all the majors, Darren Clarke hit only 23 fairways at Sandwich in the 2011 Open Championship, and next up is Jordan Spieth, who hit just 24 fairways in the 2017 Open at Birkdale.
What makes Byron’s total of 23 fairways hit remarkable is the fact that he hit 46 greens, which was T-5th at Winged Foot (Sungjae Im and Bubba Watson hit the most with 48). Of the 56 par 4s and par 5s, Bryson hit 37 of the 56 greens in regulation, and on those 37 greens, he hit 15 of them from off the fairway. That is a remarkable stat if you think about that, he was able to hit 15 greens from the rough.
So what does this mean? That DeChambeau can win anytime and on any course. When Bryson went to the Charles Schwab after the break and gained 20 pounds, he astonished everyone with his newfound power as he averaged 340.4 per drive at Colonial. Of the 50 longest drives of the week, he owned ten of them with eight of them over 349 yards. Making that accomplishment so deadly was that he hit 33 of 56 fairways to rank T-28th as he finished T-3rd, one shot out of the playoff. Three weeks later, he won at the Rocket Mortgage. He averaged 329.8 on all 56 driving holes, which was 10.1 yards longer per drive than Cameron Champ, who averaged 319.7. When DeChambeau won, some were saying the golfing world was in big trouble. But we all know that there has never been a player that hit is long and won on any course. We saw what happened to John Daly, who was the longest player in the 90s, but he had a knack of hitting it off the fairway and missing many cuts. After winning at the Rocket Mortgage, we saw the same as Bryce, who missed the cut at the Memorial and struggled on the tight TPC Southwind. Bryce also struggled in the PGA Championship. He was in the same position on the front nine leading at Harding Park only to have driving problems and stumble down into a T-4th. So when Bryce missed the cut at the Northern Trust and was 50th on the tight Olympia Fields course, people forgot about DeChambeau.
What he did right at Winged Foot was not make a double bogey. Of the 61 that made the cut, Bryson was one of ten players with that accomplishment. But his most significant achievement was shooting 67 the last day, not only the low round of the day but the only player to shot an under-par score. The next best round of the day was 70 by three players. To show how well his final round is, DeChambeau gained 7.90 shots on the field, the best final-round total by a U.S. Open champion since Johnny Miller in 1973, who gained 10.77 shots with is legendary closing 63 at Oakmont.
So we know who the early favorite for the Masters will be. Now the Masters is 8 weeks away, and we will probably see DeChambeau again in three weeks at the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The next two weeks won’t have very good fields, but Shriners should get a good field. The week after that is the CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek, it will have a field of 78. The same the following week at the Zozo Championship @ Sherwood, also only 78 playing. So those weeks will be the events the best players show up at before the Masters.
It was a big disappointment for Matthew Wolff to shoot a final round 75. Hard to believe you can hit just two fairways and shot 65, and the next day hit seven fairways but shot 75. But that is the game. Wolff joins a long list of final round casualties at Winged Foot. In 1974 Tom Watson was the leader and shot 79 to finish T-5th. In 1984 Hale Wing was the third-round leader and shot a final round 9 to finish 6th. In 2006 Kenneth Ferrie and Phil Mickelson led, Ferrie shot 76 while Phil finished with a double bogey and a 74. But Wolff has a lot to take out of this, playing in the final group in a major. With his T-4th at the PGA Championship and now 2nd at the U.S. Open, we know he has the game to do well in majors.
The same with Xander Schauffele, who finished T-5th. Of anyone, he seems to be the most consistent player in the majors. In his career, he has made 13 major starts and finished in the top-ten, seven times. He will be looking forward to playing at the Masters, last year he was T-2nd, just a shot back of winner Tiger Woods.
One player that we think very little of and we shouldn’t is Louis Oosthuizen. He finished T-3rd, his sixth career top-three finish in a major championship. He is a rare person that can claim to be a runner-up in all four majors. Since 2010 only four players have more top-three finishes in majors, Phil Mickelson (8), Jordan Spieth (8), Dustin Johnson (6), and Rory McIlroy (7).
Tying with Oosthuizen was Harris English, who had his first top-ten in 17 major starts. Since the break, English game has gotten better, and he has become a very consistent player, I can see him winning very soon.
Many are probably disappointed that Dustin Johnson finished T-6th. He was the favorite going into Winged Foot and never got it together until he shot a final-round 70. We probably won’t see him until Shadow Creek in four weeks and wonder if his game will cool down during the break. Still have to consider him for the Masters; he is still the best player in the world.
What can I say about Rory McIlroy. Again it was a roller Coaster week for him as he shot 67-76-68-75. Those rounds show how inconsistent his game has gotten, we never know which Rory McIlroy will show up from round to round. Now to be fair with him, he just had his first child three weeks ago, so we have to cut him some slack, but it’s hard to believe that he won his first major at the 2011 U.S. Open and in his next 14 majors won three more. Since then, he has been winless in 21 starts and is in the prime of his career. Who knows maybe he will work hard over the next couple of months and be ready to go at the Masters.
Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson finished T-8th, and both of them have been great since the break from COVID-19. You have to think that they will continue playing great; Thomas has been a mainstay in golf for over four years. As for Webb, now that he has figured out how to putt again without anchoring his putter, you know he will be a factor for the next couple of years.
Jon Rahm finished T-23rd and shows that he needs to work on his game on massive rough courses. That has become his big problem. When he hits if offline from the tee, it costs him big time. After a first-round 69 at Winged Foot, he showed that in finishing with rounds of 72-76-73. When he gets better out of the rough, then he will win the significant events and be a force in golf. He also needs to work on his temper. It showed in several cases at Winged Foot and is a problem for him.
Very disappointed in Patrick Cantlay since the break. In eight starts, he only has one top-ten, T-7th at the Workday. Each week he has that one terrible round that drags him down. At the Workday, it was his second round 72. The next week he shot 79 in the final round at the Memorial to finish T-32nd. At the PGA Championship, he shot a second-round 68 and a third-round 66 but had a first and final round 73. I don’t know why, but Cantlay has to figure it out for him to be really good.
In watching both Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, both players are also very lost. Fowler looked great after an opening-round 69 at Winged Foot but shot 77-72-79 and finished T-49th. Jordan missed the cut shooting 73-81. How can a guy that is as good of a putter like Jordan shot 81? Honestly, things are now getting bad for Spieth. He may want to look for a different coach and someone that can get his head on the right path. God gave Spieth all of the tools to be the best, and for a three-year stretch, he was, but now things have gotten away from him. He hasn’t gone into the back nine on Sunday in contention since the 2019 Memorial when he shot 73 with a 38 on the back nine to finish T-7th. It’s now three years since his last win at the British Open in 2017, and he needs to break out of this funk real soon or start getting his resume ready to be a golf announcer.
The same with Sergio Garcia, who also is totally lost. He shot 74-81, and he has been lost for months now. He did finish T-5th at the RBC Heritage but has been very inconsistent. Since winning the Masters in 2017, he has played in 13 majors missing the cut in 9 of them, and his best finish was T-21st in the 2017 U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods shot 73-77, and it seems light years since he won the Masters. Have no idea what the problem is, but he just seems to be going through the motions. Since his Masters win, he has played in five majors, missing the cut in three times, and it reminds us of the way Jack Nicklaus played after he won the Masters in 1986. Yes, he was T-8th at his next major, the U.S. Open, but after that only contended once in a major, and that was at the 1990 Masters when he shot a final-round 74 and finished 6th. Who knows, maybe Tiger is finished, perhaps his back is too timid to get ready for a tournament. A shame if that is the case.
Last we have Phil Mickelson, who started his week birdie-birdie and played his last 34 holes in 15 over. Phil is now 50 and already has won on the Champions Tour, but he doesn’t want to win with a bunch of 50 year-olds. It’s a shame that this happened again at Winged Foot and in New York. Have to think that Winged Foot will never be a happy spot in Phil’s memories. He loves the New York area, remember his first major came at Baltusrol in 2005. Even though that is considered “the New York area,” in seven New York U.S. Open starts, he has four runner-up finishes, again a real downer. Now many was questioning if this will be his last U.S. Open. Many forget that Phil did finish T-2nd just a month ago at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Have to think at worst Phil could win a U.S. Senior Open, which would get him back, plus right now, he is 56th in the World Rankings, and the USGA usually gives invites to the top-60. So I think he will play in another U.S. Open since the U.S. Open won’t be back in New York until 2026. At that point, Phil will be 56, and the odds will belong on that happening, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Torrey Pines next year.
Now on a personal note, we will have a short preview on Tuesday. Honestly, this week is not that big of an event. My wife is packing the SUV and we are off on a ten-day vacation to a beach house on the outer banks. Personally I haven’t been on an airplane since last July coming home from Ireland, feels weird. I haven’t been anyplace since my son’s graduation last December so in a way, I am waking up each morning and feeling it’s Ground Hog Day. So it will be nice to get the batteries recharged, next week no key fantasy stats of the Southern Farms, key stats will return before Las Vegas. We will have performance charts. Talk to you all soon.