As a buffed Bryson DeChambeau shakes things up and other Americans rack up victories in the season restart, the straw who stirs the PGA Tour’s drink remains on the shelf
A lot has happened during the first three weeks of the PGA Tour’s return to competition.
The three winners – Americans Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson, respectively – already were multi-winners on Tour, so their return to the winner’s circle hardly surprised.
Simpson and Johnson often work their way to the tops of leaderboards, and Berger had been showing positive signs before the coronavirus pandemic halted professional golf in mid-March.
The newfound length of American Bryson DeChambeau, who ranks second on the Tour at 320.1 yards per drive, has been as eye-opening to golf fans as it has been to his peers.
The most impressive statistic for DeChambeau, 26, a five-time winner on Tour, might concern his daily diet. He chugs down 6-7 protein shakes per day as part of a 3,000-3,500-caloric intake to fuel his imposing new physique: 6 feet, 1 inch and 240 pounds, about 40 pounds more than before the three-month suspension in play.
But the biggest surprise since play has resumed? It’s not so much what has happened but what hasn’t happened. Specifically, Tiger Woods.
In Week 4 of the restart, Woods has given no indication of when he might return to competition. His Twitter account offers no clue as to whether me might play next week at the inaugural Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, or one week later, also at Muirfield Village, in the Memorial, which he has won five times.
It would make sense for Woods to play a Muirfield Village course that has played such a key role in his climb to the top of the PGA Tour’s all-time victory list, with 82. If he, for some reason, doesn’t return in the next two weeks, speculation would soar.
Woods looked good May 24 in the “The Match: Champions for Charity,” which makes his delayed return to the Tour head-scratching.
Woods has said in the past that his new normal would be to play a schedule that is comfortable for him, with his focus on the four major championships.
This year’s major season, like the rest of the Tour’s revised schedule, has been anything but normal. Soon after the coronavirus pandemic prompted PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to suspend the season March 12 after the first round of the Players Championship, the Tour started revising its schedule. The PGA Championship was reset for Aug. 6-9, the U.S. Open for Sept. 17-20 and the Masters for Nov. 12-15. (The R&A opted not to play the British Open.) The extended time off for Woods, 44, who underwent spinal-fusion surgery in 2017, makes sense if he is concerned about playing events that don’t fit his major strategy.
The expectation is that once Woods returns, he will be competitive immediately, but it is possible that the long layoff might make it more difficult for him to compete successfully against fields that have produced some exceptional scoring in recent weeks.
As an example, only two rounds in the first three tournaments have produced a scoring average of 70 or higher: the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge (70.088) and the first round at RBC Heritage (70.152).
The other 10 rounds were below 70, with the fourth round at last week’s Travelers (68.338) as the lowest of the season.
All three events produced tournament scoring averages of sub-70. Only six tournaments in the 2019-20 season recorded scoring averages under 70. The 68.626 at Travelers is the lowest this season.
So, when Woods returns to the Tour, he very well could see more low scoring. If paired with DeChambeau, he might be wowed by a long-driving show, too.
Keep in mind that all this has happened without such superstars as Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5, respectively, in the world order, having won in the season restart.
In fact, by many measures, all four have been disappointing.
So, after what likely will be another low-scoring bonanza this week in Detroit, the Muirfield Village fortnight should be interesting as the PGA Tour plays consecutive weeks on the same course.
Surely McIlroy, Koepka, Rahm, DeChambeau, Thomas or Woods, should he appear, will break through in the coming weeks. If not, that will be the biggest surprise going into next month’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
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