ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – For those who have lamented Bryson DeChambeau’s ability to redefine the game with his driver and scientifically reworked swing, the defense appears to be the ancient links of St. Andrews.
Although there has been plenty of handwringing this week over what the modern game could do to the Old Course, when it comes to DeChambeau, the fast and fiery conditions created too many variables. So, while he talked earlier in the week about all the par-4s he could drive, he went the conservative route on Thursday, leaving the driver in the bag for much of the round.
“With it being so firm even with 3,000 [rpm] spin on my driver, which I inherently did for this week, I can't control it in the fairway,” said DeChambeau, who was among the early finishers with a 3-under 69. “It does take driver out of play quite a bit. Even 3-wood on 9 was too much and there's bunkers that are kind of diabolical.”
Instead, DeChambeau went mostly with a 17-degree driving iron that, he explained, still runs out 300 yards and produced plenty of short approach shots on a relatively benign day.
There had been two schools of thought for playing the Old Course, with some opting to play aggressively off the tee and largely take their chances from the fescue rough, and others choosing to be more strategic to find fairways.
“I could [hit more drivers] but it would go into the fescue and I wouldn't be able to control my spin,” DeChambeau said. “This is about winning a major championship that I have to be strategic out here. There's no way to bomb and gouge it out this week.”
Just don't tell DeChambeau's playing competitor that.
"Jack [Nicklaus] always said avoid the least amount of bunkers you can off the tee, but 2 and 3, none of those bunkers come in play for him," John Daly said. "But he's got his game plan. If I had that power, I'd be hitting driver on every freakin' hole, man. I'd be loading up, trying to drive them all."
There's still time for Bryson Ball to return, but for now, the driver will get a few extra breathers.