U.S. Open 2020: Bryson DeChambeau attacked with bombs, but hardly brought Winged Foot to its knees

September 17, 2020

Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the second tee during the first round of the 120th U.S. Open Championship.

Gregory Shamus

A.W. Tillinghast’s Winged Foot is known for its nuances. The newly bulked up Bryson DeChambeau, not so much, at least when it comes to his strategy off the tee.

Bombs away.

On Wednesday, DeChambeau turned 27 years old. A day later, he took his favorite toy—the Kraken—out for a high-speed drive in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Tall trees, narrow fairways and thick rough; why would this week be any different?

A dozen times DeChambeau wielded the big stick, averaging 328.75 yards a pop off the tee with it. That included a 384-yard bomb on the West Course’s first hole, where he was left just 67 yards from the green, wedged to 15 feet and made birdie.

The rest of the round wasn’t so simple. Still, he had plenty to be pleased about after opening with a one-under 69 to sit just four strokes off the lead.

As for the aggressive strategy? It worked out OK.

On the par-4 second, DeChambeau launched one 340 yards and into the right rough but still had a look at a birdie putt that slid by.

The fourth? Another long ball (343 yards), but another misstep from short range, hitting wedge to just 25 feet to set up a two-putt par.

It would be a familiar theme most of the day, whether he found the fairway or not.

The only holes DeChambeau could have hit driver but didn’t? The 329-yard sixth, where his fairway wood nearly got him to the putting surface but left him with an awkward shot from the right to a back-right pin. The other was on the 422-yard 15th, where a creek cuts across the hole about 320 yards from the tee. In practice rounds, DeChambeau cleared it. Thursday, he laid up short of it with an iron.

Other times, he didn’t find the short grass and paid for it one way or another.

At the eighth, he pulled his tee shot so far left it landed in the rough on the second hole. Still, he had a look at birdie that rolled by. A hole later, his feet spun out and his drive landed in a fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up on the par 5.

The 11th was one of the easier holes on the course Thursday. But not from the left rough. DeChambeau also found the thick stuff on the 12th.

A beauty 329-yard drive down the 14th left just a wedge in and DeChambeau hit it to inside 10 feet. But, alas, he missed the birdie putt and settled for a disappointing par.

The dogleg 16th rewards tee shots that cut off the corner, but not those that land in the rough. A par save was a bonus.

See a theme here?

Another aggressive line on 17, another visit to the heavy grass. Not even a man of DeChambeau’s might could reach the green from there, and then he missed a 6-footer that would’ve saved par.

Even finding the short grass, as he did on the 466-yard 18, with a modest 303-yard poke, didn’t always help. Another par to close after a two-putt from 25 feet.

In the end, DeChambeau was one of 21 players to break par on Thursday, despite hitting just half his fairways. Take that, nuance.