News & Opinion

2020 U.S. Open: Dawn of a new era begins 350 yards away

U.S. Open — Rory McIlroy, R4
Rory McIlroy reacts after an iron shot on the fifth hole during the U.S. Open's final round at Winged Foot Golf Club's West Course.

Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele are among the prominent touring pros to watch in amazement as U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau changes the game

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – In the world of professional golf, it’s hard for a golfer to separate himself from the pack.

Tiger Woods comes along only once in a generation, as did Jack Nicklaus before him. When they were on, they were unstoppable.

They also went about their games in two distinctly different ways.

Nicklaus didn’t work out or spend hours on the practice range or work with a bevy of coaches. He simply had the innate ability to get the job done.

Woods was a little different. He helped popularize fitness in professional golf and eventually forced his competitors to adopt healthier habits and hit the gym.

Woods also dominated the game mentally, and he often was in a class by himself, leaving others to play for second place.

On Sunday at the U.S. Open here at Winged Foot Golf Club, runaway winner Bryson DeChambeau made a statement similar to what Nicklaus and Woods had done so often at the height of their careers (complete coverage).

Yet, some observers see what DeChambeau is doing – his prodigious 350-yard-plus drives as the most visible, but his work on the greens, as well – as being questionable for the health of the game.

“With the way he approaches it, with the arm-lock putting, with everything, it's just where the game's at right now,” said Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion who tied for eighth, 12 strokes behind DeChambeau (scores). “I'm not saying that's right or wrong. He’s just taking advantage of what we have right now.”

Xander Schauffele used the word “revolutionize” to describe DeChambeau.

“Maybe he's just exposing our game in terms of, if he keeps hitting it further and further, I don't see why he wouldn't be able to win many more U.S. Opens,” said Schauffele, who tied for fifth, 10 strokes out.

DeChambeau, with the U.S. Open trophy at his side, credited Woods as being a big influence on him as a youngster who, like Woods, grew up in California.

Now, DeChambeau is the influencer. He likely is changing the game for the professionals and amateurs alike, especially his peers, who must have been flying home Sunday night on their private jets, thinking about how they can survive in a changing professional game.

“If you look at just people that have dominated, it's always been distance,” Schauffele said. “Obviously, Tiger had the mix of touch and feel and everything. He was sort of the first guy to really hit it far with those clubs. Jack hit it really far, as well. All the greats hit it pretty far, for the most part. It's no longer sort of a touchy-feely game.”

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.