I was focusing pretty much on the delights of actually being at a golf tournament last week, so neglected the accustomed lockdown practice of keeping tabs on all golf across the globe.
The AT&T Byron Nelson, in Dallas, is a fine tournament, one of the PGA Tour’s legacy events that will hopefully forever honour past greats. However, positioned against this week’s PGA Championship, and in situe at the British Masters at the Belfry, my interest wavered.
What I did pick up was on social media, and there were repeated postings on Bryson DeChambeau, apparently tearing up the course. It’s his home tournament, of course, so naturally there was a fair bit of media focus on him.
Scrolling down the leaderboard
368-yard carry. 💪 pic.twitter.com/Uff0MUd6yb
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 15, 2021
After the Saturday finish at the Belfry I was finally able to catch up on Sunday, naturally assuming that, given all the attention, Bryson must be contending yet again.
I called up the PGA Tour website to check the leaderboard. No Bryson near the top. Scroll, scroll, scroll, nothing. In the impatient manner of modern internet usage, eventually I put his name in the search field.
He was 59th.
Now, we know DeChambeau and his course-busting length “moves the needle” with the public. But this seemed ludicrous.
I’ll quite happy concede that maybe I’m part of the problem and perhaps notice Bryson’s antics being retweeted more than posts of Sam Burns, who led the tournament most of the way, or Korea’s KH Lee, who won it (at 25-under no less).
But the obsession with length seems to be getting out of hand. Nowhere more so than the PGA Championship this week, where the Ocean Course will play at a record 7876 yards, with a slope rating of 155 and a course rating of 79.1.
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 16, 2021
This apparently makes it the most difficult course in the USA (the hardest in Scotland, you’ll not be surprised to hear, is Carnoustie at 77.4 off the Open Championship tips).
Just 124 yards short of golf’s first 8000-yard championship course. But do we really need to go that half-swing wedge for today’s pros to get to a tipping point?
Three majors onside with plans to curb length – one isn’t
“We are at a crossroads as it relates to the distance issue.”
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) November 11, 2020
Augusta National at the Masters last month made it very clear they support the R&A and USGA’s drive to curb length. Those governing bodies, of course, run the two other majors, the Open and the US Open.
So three majors are on board. The one that isn’t, and is stretching a course to near 8000 yards, is the PGA Championship. Is this a none-too-subtle statement of defiance by the PGA of America?
If it is, we can safely ignore it. The PGA Championship, despite moving from fourth to second on the calendar, remains unequivocally golf’s fourth major. By some considerable distance.
The PGA of America is hanging on to its position of importance with increasing desperation. If there’s to be a change in the big four events of golf, everyone knows which one is most vulnerable.
If the other three majors decide length must be curbed, as the main attractions in the entire game, golf everywhere is probably going to fall into line with them.
The PGA is no different. If not, we can easily get another fourth major. There might be a little regret – the Wanamaker Trophy is a beautiful big thing – but not that much.
The major that produces more one-time winners than any other
But it’s a major at the moment, so who is going to win? Rory McIlroy’s odds tumbled with his Quail Hollow win but he wasn’t driving the ball nearly as well as he did when he won this event at Kiawah in 2012.
The Bash Brothers, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, are just coming out of dry dock. DeChambeau hasn’t really played well since the Arnold Palmer he won and the stuff off the fairways at Kiawah is brutal, no matter how strong you are.
I like Jon Rahm (12-1) Justin Thomas (14-1), Xander Schauffele (16-1) of the lower odds, Matt Wallace (100-1) of those further out.
And Robert MacIntyre (125-1), Victor Perez (150-1) and Sam Horsfield (250-1) are definitely worth each-way money on a course that certainly suited European players last time a major was there.
Never give up – unless you’re David Lynn
8,358 days since his first round on Tour, today Richard Bland realised a dream.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 15, 2021
Speaking of which, England’s David Lynn finished second to McIlroy in `12 and now isn’t even a pro.
As Golf Digest told us last week, he fell out of love with the tour grind, invested his winnings in property and is now doing better financially than all but the super-elite golfers.
So maybe giving up isn’t such a bad thing after all. Try telling that to the dreamers after the Belfry, where Richard Bland won his first tour title at the age of 48 and at his 478th attempt.
— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) May 16, 2021
Bland’s story is now one of resolute determination finally rewarded, but previously it was a familiar one – form fluctuating, tour cards coming and going, heartbreak here and there. It’s actually the norm in this often cruel sport.
Yet Bland deserves the admiration of even us cynics. He did “never give up”. He built himself a tidy career in the process, and now has this reward.
Double D’s turn next?
@blandy73 congratulations 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 That is a lesson in never giving up! 👍🏻💪🏼
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) May 15, 2021
There’s a lot to compare in Bland to our own David Drysdale, and it was touching to hear the Englishman take time – unprompted – to reference the Scot during his celebrations.
“I think David is up there and he’s had a few close calls in the last couple of years, notably the one in Qatar last year,” he said.
Today I saw something that inspired me and reminded me of why golf is the greatest game. Richard Bland who hadn’t won in his previous 478 professional starts wins the #britishmasters in a playoff on the @europeantour. Congrats @blandy73 on the first and wishing you many more!
— fredcouplesgolf (@fredcouplesgolf) May 15, 2021
“But I’ve known Double D for donkeys’ years and we have a laugh about (never winning). He’s a great guy and he’s more than good enough to win.
“Anyone who pegs it up on the European Tour these days is good enough to win. I’m sure he keeps going and as long as he stays fit and healthy then that win is going to come for him.”