During many of the pre-tournament press conferences this week at Southern Hills, players talked about the importance of respecting Southern Hills and playing for the fairway off the tee. As Tiger Woods, who put two new TaylorMade P770 long irons in play, mentioned on Tuesday, the course “still puts a premium in putting the ball in play.”
Following Woods’ lead, one would assume the optimal approach would be to use fairways and long irons to keep it in play. But playing it safe doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes it makes more sense to smash driver and take a chance.
It’s a game plan Scott Fawcett, founder of the DECADE Golf system, is fully embracing this week with the 30-plus pros he’s working with at the PGA Championship. Instead of laying back, the higher percentage play is with driver in hand.
“Just pick your target, send it and see what happens,” said Fawcett on GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast. “This is what [Bryson] DeChambeau did at Winged Foot. In order to destroy the golf course, it’s what they should do here. There needs to be a good reason you’re not hitting driver — and hitting the fairway is not a good enough reason.
“Just because you drop back does not mean you get to hit the fairway,” he said. “You don’t get to go place your ball in the fairway. You should just send it and let the fairway jump in the way of some percentage of tee shots.”
As Fawcett mentioned, it’s a plan DeChambeau employed when he won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. With thick rough deterring some players from taking driver, DeChambeau went against the grain and employed an aggressive approach for most of the week.
Taking driver and missing the fairway might mean bringing trees into play on some holes, but it’s a risk worth taking in Fawcett’s eyes.
“At a course like Southern Hills, it kind of sounds like a joke, but if I’m going to hit it in the trees, I’d rather be as far past as many of them as I possibly can because it’s going to open up some avenue to the green,” he said.
Fawcett was so steadfast in his belief that driver is the play, he offered a hot take on the potential winner’s performance off the tee.
“There’s no chance the winner is going to be in the top 30 in fairways hit,” he said. “And if he is, he’s going to chip and putt his face off.”
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