Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's

June 16, 2024

DeChambeau survives and became a two time US Open Champion


Epic finish, total choke, and a US Open that was centered around luck. Bryson DeChambeau endured and hit the most clutch shot in recent major championship history. If only for that one shot, he deserves the US Open trophy. Up to that point, he was in a survival mode, clinging to the lead and finally giving it up to a charging Rory McIlroy. But US Open's are not over until the last putt is holed. Heartbreak awaits around every corner on a golf course like Pinehurst #2. Even the best of shots can result in disastrous results. The winner avoided the minefields and minimized the mistakes. In the end, he made the shots and Rory didn't.

Pinehurst #2 is a Donald Ross masterpiece. The most notable distinguishing feature of his design is the dome like greens that resemble an upside-down cereal bowl. It is said that he got his inspiration from his boyhood golf course of Royal Dornoch Golf Club in northern Scotland. I've played Dornoch and it's a wonderful test and there are many falloff features that are characteristics of Donald Ross designs, but not nearly every hole where it drops off from all directions like at Pinehurst. I am not a fan of such a design, unless the greens were more receptive to approach shots. The course first opened in 1907 when green speed was probably half as fast as the modern conditions we have today.

It is true that you need a degree of luck to win a major championship, but for me this was the ultimate lucky open. Drive it off line on most US Open courses and you very rarely come up with a hittable golf shot. At Pinehurst, when balls got into the naïve tall fescue grasses, most times the players had a shot. Bryson drove it poorly through most of the last 27 holes, but routinely found good lies and was able to recover. The commentators were not picking on Bryson, but correctly pointed out his good fortune. I hate when good shots get bad results. But over four days, I saw wonderful shots come within a few feet of excellence and then end up, sometimes, 30 yards away from the putting surface. You could say that the players should've hit a better shot, but these are the best in the world and the conditions prevented them from having a chance.

Coming into this week's US Open, I did not have high hopes of a worthy worldclass winner. I figured a relative unknown would win and be the luckiest player of the week. Payne Stewart winning his historic battle with Phil Michelson in 1999 produced an excellent winner with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh only two shots behind. In my opinion, Michael Campbell and Martin Kaymer were weak champions, who just had their career weeks of their lives. Campbell had unbelievable good bounces when he was trying to give it away. And Kaymer never chipped, but used his putter from way off the greens up to 40 yards. But today's duel was classic.

After you take away the preliminary first 68 holes, you have a duel between two of the best players in the world. What could you have asked for more than this. Rory had a two shot as he teed off on the 15th hole. But playing one hole behind, Bryson made a two-putt birdie on 14, he then teed off on 15 one shot behind. This is what you want, when great players hit clutch shots and outright win a major championship. That didn't happen. Rory played the last four holes in three over par and Bryson was one over for the same holes. Politely, Rory choked. Maybe the pressure finally got to him, but missing two putts inside 4 feet, for a player of his caliber, is sad. Bryson also missed a short par putt on 15 that had been routine until then. Then knowing the 18th hole would decide the tournament, Bryson hit another poor wayward tee shot. This time his very off line tee shot wound up in a near impossible position. He played to a bunker 55 yards away from the pin. Even for a skilled professional, this is about as hard a shot to hit and get the ball close. Having to do this to win the US Open, only doubled the difficultly.

Hats off to Bryson DeChambeau for hitting the shot of the tournament when it mattered most. Sad for Rory, but he only has himself to blame. Hope he can recover from this collapse. It will be a scare that unfortunately will not be forgotten by the media and his psyche. Pinehurst #2 produced drama, excitement and a first-rate winner. I just wish the golf course was setup so the winner didn't also have to be the luckiest.

May 24, 2024


Xander Schauffele is a major champion. His track record indicated that this feat might never have happened. He has had 13 top ten finishes in majors, since joining the PGA Tour 2017. That, plus numerous leads squandered in regular PGA Tour events over the past four years, made you believe he didn't have that illusive quality that separates the really good and the elites in professional golf, especially since Rory McIlroy steamrolled him down the stretch at Quail Hollow only a week before. This time the stars aligned and he got the job done.

The Valhalla golf course was a challenging course, but not difficult by major course standards. Usually, errant shots have drastic consequences. Valhalla has many hazards, but they were easily avoided. Soft conditions made the course more vulnerable. One under par was the cut line after 36 holes, which sometimes that score would be leading or be close to the lead on a more demanding venue. The record score of 21 under par and over-all low scoring by the rest of the field, should not take anything away from Xander's victory. Whenever there is a major title on the line, there is added pressure and it showed throughout the week. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Sean Lowry, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Max Homa, and Collin Morikawa all were at one time during the week either tied or one back from the lead. All faded and only Xander, Bryson DeChambeau, and Viktor Hovland had sustained quality play to put them in position coming down the stretch. A major should produce drama, which certainly happened on the last hole.

Both Bryson and Viktor had about 8 foot putts on the 72nd hole to record 20 under par. Bryson, admitted that he thought he didn't hit his putt hard enough. Luckly, it reached the hole and fell in. Viktor wasn't as lucky, as his putt was hit too hard and caught the lip and missed. Back on the tee, Xander stood at 20 under par and needed a birdie to win the tournament. His drive didn't fade and he was faced with a difficult lie with the ball above his feet by about a foot and with him standing in the bunker. For most amateurs this is a difficult and confusing shot, because the club at address looks open and most would expect the ball to slice or go right. However, the exact opposite is true. At address the club is actually very closed. Xander, knew how to execute this shot. He aimed to the right, flattened his swing and let the natural angle of the club produce a 20 yards hook that went about 220 yards with his 4 iron that set up his 90 foot pitch shot. Both Bryson and Xander hit clutch wedge shots from similar positions on 18 to produce their birdies. Both were very difficult, because of the slope leading up to the hole. Both chose to pitch on the low side and land it about 20 feet short of the pin, where the ball skipping forward and in Xander's case ending a precarious 6 feet short of the hole. Tour statistics show that PGA pros make 65% of their putts from 6 feet. The statistics don't show the percentage made for a career defining first major victory, but we know now that Xander was up to the task and could deliver in the clutch.

Valhalla probably has seen its' last major championship. The PGA of America needs tougher golf courses to uphold its' standing as a major. The next venues are championship quality, with track records to match. With the exception of PGA Frisco in 2027, Quail Hollow, Aronimink, Olympic Club, Congressional, and Kiawah Island, all have hosted major championships and have withstood the test of the world's best golfers. PGA Frisco, outside of Dallas, Texas, is a PGA of America owned facility that was specially made and designed for major competition. From what I have seen of the property, the course will play similarly to the Ocean Course at Kiawah. Wind swept with severe consequences for missed fairways and greens. The PGA of America will not put out an inferior product.

Xander Schauffele has earned his career moment. Clutch down the stretch and closed with a birdie that defines a champion.



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