Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's
Memorial crowns champion while others reveal weaknesses
Muirfield Village Golf Club is a traditionally tough layout that suddenly turned into a US Open like course. US Opens usually identify the best player under difficult conditions. At The Memorial this past weekend, we definitely recognized Jon Rahm as the best player. What it also revealed was flaws in other major championship want-to-be's games. Major championship courses demand accuracy, deft short game, and intelligent course management. This tournament produced some knucklehead play by some of the best players. Was it an anomaly or did we see cracks in their games?
Bryson DeChambeau makes 10 on a relatively easy par five and misses the cut. Nearly hitting it out-of-bounds three times from the heavy rough is not the Einstein genius that we are lead to believe Bryson is. His on-course demeanor also revealed a caustic side that I don't think Byson wants us to know about. Rick Fowler also made a quick exit with an opening 81. Dustin Johnson shot 80 80 for two days. Also missing the cut was Justin Rose at five over and Hideki Matsuyama at 10 over. But on the weekend, the course turned even meaner and became a rehearsal for what to expect at Wing Foot in September for the US Open.
Tony Finau was breezing along through 11 holes on Saturday at 12 under par until bad management and poor wedge play killed him. A serious flaw was exposed. His method in the bunker is to take a relatively short backswing and a shallow angle of attack. This is fine when there are not high lips and hard fast greens. He also couldn't handle pitching out of the rough by the green by using this shallow angle technique. He has major championship ability, but unless this area is addressed, his major championship aspirations are doomed.
Rory McIlroy continued to show his weakness with his wedge game. Most everything else is working well, but for the last few tournaments he has lost his edge from 100 yards and in. At Muirfield he was noticeably frustrated. He knows this is a shortcoming, but he has struggled to be consistently better. If he doesn't have to rely on his wedge game in the majors, he can succeed, but I don't see that happening. Jordan Speith is steadily making a comeback. The improvement in his full swing is noticeable, but it's not consistent enough for a major test. His scores on the weekend were either great or poor. Consistency will be his key to reenter the winners circle. Brooks Koepka is battling knee problems. He won't tell us how much he is hurting, but he is not the same player that has won four major championships. Too bad.
Tiger Woods played his first tournament in five months. Generally he looked good from tee to green, with his wedge game very sharp. His putting was off most of the week. He also showed his flaw that probably will plague him the rest of his career, his back stiffening up. That happened on Friday and he luckily made the cut. He seemed fine that last two days, but the miss to the right is definitely a trust issue with his back. Still his final score was better than some others that have been playing a lot more tournaments. If he is to contend for a major this year, his back needs to be 100% and he needs play more events to get into his tournament mental mode.
One person that showed he is ready for the top spotlight was Jon Rahm. He deserves the number one ranking in the world. Power and finesse with a strong desire, are what has propelled him to the top of his profession. I will not be surprised if he wins one or two majors this fall.
NASCAR Golf verses Hulk Golf
I coined the phrase NASCAR golf to describe the "hit it as far as possible tactic" that the younger players on the PGA Tour have adopted. The "Peddle to the Metal" mentality has produced some outstanding performances when all systems are on "Go". However, it also has not been a reliable format to produce consistent high finishes. Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas have had great success using this aggressive method, but none have yet reached the level of consistency that Tiger Woods attained in his prime. Now enters Bryson DeChambeau with a new dynamic; Hulk Golf!
Bryson DeChambeau has introduced a component to the game that few thought possible, bringing over-powering brute strength to a game that usually requires delicate precise movements. To accomplish this, Bryson has transformed his body into a golfer's version of "The Hulk". Since last year, he has gained 40 pounds and added a lot of muscle. He accomplished this while not giving up flexibility, which is the key ingredient to clubhead speed and distance. He has been the talk of the PGA Tour these past four weeks. He has had chances to win twice and has not finished out of the top 8, since the Tour restarted.
What is so remarkable is that Bryson has added up to 50 yards in distance while not sacrificing accuracy. Bryson is, at times, swinging 100% and falling off-balance, but the ball is still going relatively straight. When I have watched the National Long Driving Contest, the contestants rarely hit more that 2 or 3 drives out of 10 into the outlined fairway. When Bryson readies himself for a massive hit, he prepares like a weightlifter before they lift a record weight. He builds speed on his practice swings, then approaches the ball with intensity and sets himself and takes a deep breath which he holds while swinging. The follow through is a total release of what energy he has mustered. No one comes close to his effort!
Bryson has totally committed to this approach. He drinks 4 to 6 protein shakes a day along with a big breakfast of 4 eggs and five slices of bacon and dinner with a large steak and potatoes. He works out three times a day. The question is, can this be a healthy approach for his long term health and is it sustainable? It certainly worked in his impressive win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit this past weekend, but can he continue on this pace?
I have to admit, he has been very fun to watch. It's fascinating. Can he keep it up? In the short term the answer is yes. Can he get better? Absolutely, he must learn to regulate his distance control with his irons. I'm guessing this is getting used to his new body and added power. It could also be an equipment issue. He has blown short iron shots over greens that cost him win opportunities twice in the last four weeks. Even with his win this week, his wedge game from 100 to 125 yards was well below average for a PGA Tour professional. Will he figure it out? He certainly has the intelligence and determination to work it out. He has shown that his touch around the greens is more than adequate, so he should be able to dial in the distance control with the mid-length wedges. There is no reason that he shouldn't improve on the few weak points in his game.
Right now he should be the favorite for any of the major championships. His awesome length has given him a big advantage and he is willing to take advantage of it. Welcome to Hulk golf!