Why Bryson DeChambeau is just part of golf being in healthy place
Not for the first time in his career, Lee Westwood hit the nail squarely on the head. “Golf’s in a healthy place, if you ask me,” he declared. “I think it’s exciting to watch right now, there’s a lot of different combinations.”
The Englishman was speaking at the denouement of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which, for me anyway, produced the most exciting leaderboard of the year so far heading into the final round.
Yes, of course, it was disappointing that Martin Laird, the 2011 winner, had seen his challenge fizzle out by that stage after being just one off the lead at the halfway point, but he’ll have other chances to add to his four PGA Tour triumphs.
What made up for the Scot tumbling out of contention over the weekend in my eyes was a leaderboard in Orlando that included Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
I’ll be honest and admit that I’d have been happier to see one of the others come out on top, but, at the same, I’ll hold up my hands and concede this was an instance when eventual winner DeChambeau succeeded in making me smile.
His potential line across the water at the par-5 sixth had been one of the big talking points of the week and, with a favourable wind, he did indeed take on that colossal carry successfully in the final two rounds.
A mighty blow of 377 yards left him just 88 yards from the hole on Sunday and, though he probably didn’t make the hole any easier due to the second shots he was faced with, who really cared?
Not when you see how the fans reacted on each occasion as he decided to go for it on the tee and also his own reaction. There are times when the Californian comes across as being too serious, but not on this occasion as he threw up his arms in celebration as his ball was still in mid-air.
It was golf at its best when Westwood, having taken a more conservative line playing alongside DeChambeau, did exactly the same thing in the final round and moments like that really do paint the sport in the light it deserves.
As does 47-year-old Westwood going toe-to-toe with someone 20 years his junior and what a credit the the Worksop man is to himself and the game in general the way he goes about his business at the moment.
That elusive major win may still be a possibility on the strength of performances like this, with the rejuvenation of three-time major winner Spieth another reason why it would be wrong to fear that DeChambeau’s way will prevail more often than not.
“People are going to have advantages and his is obviously length,” observed Westwood of the US Open champion. “He can overpower a golf course. So it’s fun to watch, I think. I don’t see the big problem, the big issue that everybody is making it out. I don’t know why everybody is panicking about it.
“Myself who is nearly 48 can still contend and Collin Morikawa winning last week, he hits it a long way but you wouldn’t say he hits it miles. Then you got Rory and people like that. Rory’s game’s great to watch.”
Even now, more than a year away from the 150th Open Championship, the traditionalists are worried about what damage DeChambeau could do to the Old Course at St Andrews.
I get that but, at the same time, just think how excited your average golf fan will be as he takes on that challenge, as was the case with Augusta National for the Masters in November and that, it should be remembered, didn’t go according to plan.
“Obviously I don’t play well every week,” acknowledged DeChambeau as he savoured his Bay Hill win. “I still hit bad shots. I don’t play my best. So it doesn’t mean I’m going to win all the time hitting it as far as I am. You still got to play and execute great golf.”
Since Tiger Woods ended up in hospital with serious leg injuries from a car crash, both Morikawa and DeChambeau have delivered performances that the great man himself would have been proud of.
Along with lots of others, he will also be enjoying the fact Spieth has a spring back in his step and, once McIlroy finds that missing “spark”, he’ll be winning again before too long as well.
Add Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland and several others into the mix and golf is, indeed, in a healthy place right now.
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