Headstrong: Bryson DeChambeau flexes his mental muscle
Much was made as to whether Bryson DeChambeau would be able drive the green of the par-5 sixth hole at Bay Hill Club & Lodge at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 565-yard sixth horseshoes around a large lake, presenting a daunting challenge for mere mortals. As the crow flies, the green is just a mere 344 yards away, according to the Course Explorer in V1 Game. This gives new meaning to the term ‘reachable par 5’ as under the right conditions, DeChambeau is able reach the par 5 with a single shot. Those conditions did not present themselves until Saturday afternoon when DeChambeau unleashed a beastly drive that easily carried the water and ended up almost 380 yards just to the right of the bunker short of the green. DeChambeau threw both arms up in celebration knowing full well that he is changing the way the game is played. However, it was not his physical strength that won the tournament this week, but his mental strength.
Bay Hill proved to be its own beast on Sunday with the scoring average at almost 75.5 and not a single player breaking 70. On a day more suited to patience and plodding, DeChambeau proved his mind to be just as strong as his body against an unlikely opponent in 47-year-old Lee Westwood. The two were never more than a stroke apart, though it seemed like DeChambeau was comfortably on top for a good part of the day. At several points, DeChambeau seemed to be poised to give strokes back to the field, but showed he can bomb more than his driver, dropping putts of 37 feet and 50 feet on holes 4 and 11. The putt on the 11th hole was critical to maintain the lead and keep momentum. In all, DeChambeau made 136 feet of putts on Sunday. Just what he needed on a day of grinding out pars. In fact, he parred the last 12 holes to close out the victory. DeChambeau is certainly known more for his driving than his putting, but when it mattered DeChambeau gained 1.9 strokes putting on a typical PGA Tour field according to his Sunday V1 Game round summary. DeChambeau putted well when it mattered most, finishing the week 21st in Putting.
DeChambeau did finish the week 1st in strokes gained off the tee and continues to use his work in the gym to his advantage. Despite Bay Hill having many holes requiring less than driver off the tee, DeChambeau still averaged over 300 yards off the tee each of the 4 days. He fully flexed his muscle on the last two days, cutting the corner on the 6th hole with Max Drives of 378 and 376 yards according to the Driving Distance plot from V1 Game. On Sunday, his drive on the 6th hole found the bunker just short of the green and was 168 yards closer to the hole than Lee Westwood’s tee shot. 168 yards! Still, golf is a game of precision and after two shots, both players were within a few yards of each other off the green and both made birdie.
Which leads to the last point… What DeChambeau is doing with the driver is amazing. In the weeks he is ‘on’, DeChambeau has an ability to separate from the field and guarantee he gains significant Strokes Driving on the field. However, he has his off weeks where that distance and speed will cost him a chance to compete as he sprays the golf ball off the course. The key though, is Approach Game. Bryson’s ball striking with irons and wedges is certainly his current weak spot. He has found a way to get the putts in the hole when it matters, but he consistently loses strokes between approach and short game. Looking at his performance this week, Approach (9th) and Short Game (30th) were good enough, but not great. As he adjusts to his new found distance, I expect his Strokes Gained Approach to continue to improve.
Bay Hill is not a golf course that was going to be overpowered. It took mental strength and clutch putting to tame the course and shoot the best round of the day on Sunday, holding off Lee Westwood by a single stroke. DeChambeau has put in the work in the gym, with numbers off a launch monitor, and statistics on knowing his tendencies and when to take risks. If you want to know your numbers and tendencies like Bryson, V1 Game can measure every facet of your game and get you to dominate the course. Whether it’s tracking driving distance gains or clutch putting, V1 Game can guide your practice and track your progress.
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