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In The Thick Of It: DeChambeau Ready To Rip At U.S. Open

A worker prepares the scoreboard along the 18th green at sunrise prior to a practice round before the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

A worker prepares the scoreboard along the 18th green at sunrise prior to a practice round before the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The matchup to watch at Winged Foot this week could be Bryson DeChambeaus thick biceps against the USGAs thick rough.

The matchup to watch at Winged Foot this week could be Bryson DeChambeaus thick biceps against the USGAs thick rough.

Golfs long-hitting mad scientist said he plans to use his driver plenty when the pandemic-delayed U.S. Open tees off in Mamaroneck, New York, starting Thursday. Despite the narrow fairways and potentially penalizing rough along the par-70, 7,477 yard course, DeChambeau insisted that he wont be playing it safe off the tee.

Im hitting it as far as I possibly can up there, he said. Theres certain holes I might lay up on just because of the situation, but for the most part Im going to be trying to go after it as much as I possibly can.”

DeChambeau, who turned 27 on Wednesday, was already a pretty big hitter when he decided to gain 40 pounds of muscle mass this year to help fuel a swing speed that propels his drives at 200 mph. Its paying off: He is leading the tour in driving distance, with an average of 322.1 yards; in the second round of the Travelers, his tee shot off No. 10 went 422 yards — the sixth-longest drive on tour all year.

DeChambeau faltered during the FedEx Cup playoffs after a strong summer run, including a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship his only top 10 in a major.

But this is the U.S. Open.

Our U.S. Open DNA is about placing a premium on accuracy off the teeing area, said John Bodenhamer, the USGAs senior director of championships. We think that premium by driving a player to drive his ball into the fairway and hit his approach shot from the fairway onto these magnificent putting green complexes and keeping the ball below the hole is key.

Bodenhamer said the USGA will let Winged Foot be Winged Foot — in other words, they dont need to do anything to make the course tougher. At Merion, they narrowed the fairways and made the rough super thick; at Shinnecock, they put the pins in tough spots as the greens were baking out.

But at Winged Foot, the doglegs, deep bunkers and complex greens are enough of a challenge that grass growing some 5 inches along the fairway should be more than enough of a test.

Its really not about what the rough entails, its about getting the ball in the fairway, Bodehamer said. That the more off-line you are, the more penalty youre going to face.

Dechambeau will put that to the test.

Even if I hit it in the rough, I still feel like I can make birdies out here, he said.

Defending champion Gary Woodland said he thinks the course will be a huge advantage for players like himself and DeChambeau, who would be hitting wedges out of the rough. Those who might need to pull out a 7-iron won’t be able to get enough speed through the heavy grass to reach the green.

I dont think the long hitters really ever get penalized because of rough,” Woodland said. “Because I think youre going to have a huge advantage any time you get the golf ball in the fairway.

Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2011, also thinks the long hitters have the advantage — if they can also keep it straight.

Its the way that the modern game has went: The longer you can hit it, the more advantage you have, he said. But Id still take hitting fairways over hitting it 350 in the rough here.

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  • First Published: September 17, 2020, 3:48 AM IST
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