Is Bryson DeChambeau going to skip the 18th fairway at TPC Sawgrass?
UPDATE: The Bryson Rule is in effect.
The PGA Tour announced on Tuesday that it would set up internal out-of-bounds at TPC Sawgrass, preventing Bryson DeChambeau from taking a potential alternate route — as laid out below — to the challenging 18th hole at the Players.
“In the interest of safety for spectators and other personnel, the Players Championship Rules Committee has installed an internal out of bounds left of the lake for play of hole 18,” their statement read.
The original story is below. You can read more about the Tour’s ruling here.
Over the weekend, Bryson DeChambeau used a cheat code at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That doesn’t mean he cheated, of course. Entirely the opposite. It means he found the type of shortcut usually reserved for Mario Kart or Destiny. Using his prodigious length, DeChambeau skipped most of the race course and turned the par-5 sixth at Bay Hill into a one-and-a-half shot hole.
This won’t suddenly happen every week. No. 6 at Bay Hill is a relatively unique hole; it’s shaped like a giant boomerang and nearly everyone on the planet has to take the long way around. DeChambeau’s length is a plus at every course, but it’s hard to think of another hole where it would create such an obvious advantage. After all, on Sunday Lee Westwood hit a solid drive, 300+ down the fairway, and found himself 168 yards behind his playing partner.
(He had a good sense of humor about it.)
After his victory, DeChambeau was asked whether any such shortcuts exist this week at TPC Sawgrass. His eyes lit up.
“Oh, man, that’s a great question,” he said. “I have thought sometimes about, on 18, going left into 9. But we’ll see, with the stands and everything, if it’s even worth it.”
What does that mean? In short, No. 18 at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most daunting tee shots on the PGA Tour. Water lurks left, and a bailout into the right trees all but guarantees a layup. The second shot isn’t much easier — the green runs right-to-left, water still lurks left and bailing out right means an extremely challenging up-and-down.
But say there was a way out of that? In DeChambeau’s vision, he’d send his tee shot left of that left water. He wouldn’t have to worry about missing left or right, only hitting it far enough to carry to the other side. From there, he’d have just a short iron from a more receptive angle.
“It just gives you a better shot into the green, I think personally,” DeChambeau said. “Where you can just hit it a little long and you’re always going to be okay. Considering if you try and hit the fairway out to the right…” There, DeChambeau caught himself so as not to take reporters too far down the rabbit hole with him.
“It’s probably not worth it. I mean, the cover’s like 310, but we’ll see. I just, I look at all options and hopefully there’s an advantage there. But if not I’ll just hit 4-iron down the fairway and hopefully an 8-iron or 7-iron into the green.”
Even if they were tempted by the angle, most Tour pros would resist the urge to play to 9 for reasons of common convention. Other players would likely be on that hole, for one thing. You’d have to walk a good deal further to get around the lake, for another. Once you were there it’d be might challenging to get an accurate yardage, too. Those factors are unlikely to dissuade DeChambeau. If anything, he’s repelled by convention.
DeChambeau leads the Tour in driving distance this season at 323.5 yards per smash. If we take that yardage and overlay a 323-yard drive onto No. 18 — aimed towards the ninth fairway — you can see what that looks like below. From there he’d have about 175 yards left to the middle of the 18th green.
There’s another world where DeChambeau would merely play to the rough to the right of the 9th fairway, a much more direct path. In that case, a 323-yard tee shot would leave him more like 140 yards. If he’s downwind and hits it more like 370, like he did over the weekend on No. 6, well, he’d have just a flip wedge left.
Important note: It’s not nearly that simple. There’s a bunker over there. There’s a tree. There are grandstands and cart paths and awkward lies and rough. Golf Channel analyst Arron Oberholser walked the line on Monday with DeChambeau’s plans in mind, and he found an opportunity — but he found trouble, too.
DeChambeau probably won’t do it; the play may introduce too many uncomfortable, unknown variables. But the fact that he’s considering it is intriguing. The way he sets aside distractions like “the architect’s intent” or “what most guys do” is noteworthy. Objectively, if the best strategy for a golf hole is playing down a different golf hole, there’s probably something imperfect in that hole’s design. But it’s not the competitive golfer’s job to correct that. It’s his job to make the lowest score possible. Last week, DeChambeau did that better than anybody else.
This week, he’ll try to do the same.