Bryson DeChambeau Overpowers Field to Win at Rocket Mortgage

Bryson DeChambeau Overpowers Field to Win at Rocket Mortgage

The 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic was a landmark meeting of generational differences within the sport of golf.

The pre-tournament favorite, Bryson DeChambeau, was newly armed with well, new arms, and lightning-quick swing speed to match. The golf course, a Donald Ross design that opened in the 19th century, was about to be played in a manner not plausibly foreseen by Ross or his contemporaries.

Before last year’s opening round, DeChambeau issued a preemptive apology to the course designer, preparing to rip drives that soared beyond the deterrents and hazards engineered more than a century earlier.

"I think there's a lot of bunkers that are around like 290 (yards), so hopefully I'll be able to clear those and take those out of play,” said DeChambeau. “So, sorry, Mr. Ross, but, you know, it is what it is."

Bryson proceeded to make 27 birdies and an eagle, and leave with his first win since bulking up. It was a victory that validated his radical transformation and set the stage for his first major triumph.

At last year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, the entire field hit six drives that were worth half-a-stroke or more Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. DeChambeau hit half of them. His average driving distance (on the two official measured holes) was more than 350 yards, the longest in PGA TOUR history by a tournament winner. Let’s examine the five most valuable tee shots DeChambeau hit that week in Michigan:

5. Second round, No. 7
Distance hit: 336 yards
Strokes Gained: +0.43

At a mere 336 yards, DeChambeau must have dialed it back a bit on this tee ball. He had just birdied the sixth to move to 10 under for the week, and celebrated with a drive of 336 yards into the right-middle portion of the fairway. Though put in ideal position to attack this par-5, this would wind up being one of the few missed opportunities for the week for DeChambeau, as he ultimately walked off the green with par.

For the tournament, DeChambeau hit 38 drives of 330 yards or more. Not only was that 15 more than any other player, only four individuals hit even half as many drives that far for the week.

4. First round, No. 13
Distance hit: 354 yards
Strokes Gained: +0.48

Only the second-most-valuable drive of his opening round, this nuclear blast at 13 went 354 yards right down the middle. DeChambeau would get up-and-down from about 27 yards away and move to 3 under on his day. For the entire hole, DeChambeau gained 0.93 strokes on the field – 52% of that value came from the tee shot. By Strokes Gained, this was by far the most valuable drive hit by anyone in the field on the 13th hole for the week.

3. Third round, No. 1
Distance hit: 364 yards
Strokes Gained: +0.54

While most humans are pining for a breakfast ball to begin their Saturday round of golf, DeChambeau had other things in mind. Bryson unloaded on a 364-yard drive down the middle to begin his third round and capitalized with birdie. DeChambeau had less than 25 yards left to the flag after his tee shot. This wound up as the longest drive of the week at the opening hole at Detroit Golf Club, narrowly beating DeChambeau’s encore on this hole the next day.

More than 84% of the strokes he gained against the field on that hole came from his tee shot.

2. Final round, No. 7
Distance hit: 366 yards
Strokes Gained: +0.57

After three birdies in his opening six holes Sunday, DeChambeau blasted a tee shot at the seventh that went 22 yards further than any other player in the final round. This left DeChambeau with less than 190 yards to the center of the green, putting him in position to make his fourth birdie of the day – which he did.

This was one of 16 drives of 350 yards or longer hit by DeChambeau for the week. On his own, DeChambeau accounted for 21% of the drives 350 or longer by the field hit over the entirety of the tournament.

1. First round, No. 14
Distance hit: 376 yards
Strokes Gained: +0.58

This unholy mauling of a tee shot was the longest of the week for DeChambeau among those that wound up in the fairway. It was also the longest hit all week at 14. His two consecutive tee shots in the opening round at 13 and 14 were worth a combined total of more than one full Stroke Gained over the field. Their combined distance was 730 yards.

DeChambeau’s approach left him about 35 feet for eagle. His made putt ended up being worth twice as much (by Strokes Gained) as his drive, illustrating a significant point about DeChambeau’s success that week. Even with his dominant performance off the tee, DeChambeau gained more strokes on the field with his putter that week (+7.83) than with his driver (+6.67). That combination of Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Putting was the highest of any winner on the PGA TOUR all season long.

Because of how good his tee shots and putting were, DeChambeau was able to win that week with negative Strokes Gained: Approach, something only 3.6% of PGA TOUR winners in the ShotLink era (since 2004) can claim.

You know, it is what it is.


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