SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Bryson DeChambeau was on the driving range on Wednesday afternoon hitting bomb after bomb with ball speed of over 195 mph and carry distance of 340 yards and more. But it didn’t matter, as he will be sitting out Friday morning's foursomes session.
Nothing DeChambeau did during practice rounds this week at Whistling Straits mattered, as U.S. Captain Steve Stricker made up his mind before the team even arrived in Wisconsin on his what those Friday pairings would be.
So it goes with today's players: they want to know as far in advance as possible when and who they will be paired with, and Stricker as well as European Captain Padraig Harrington obliged.
Harrington even admitted it was the earliest he can ever remember providing the pairings information to a team.
“Certainly, changed since the first time I was a player,” Harrington said of when he learned about pairings. “When I first went out, I found out just before the opening ceremony on Thursday that I was playing Friday morning. That was something somebody had pulled out sort of thing, so that was a little bit different.”
All that said, it doesn’t explain Stricker's decision to sit DeChambeau.
In his press conference last week announcing his captain's picks, Stricker explained that his six selections were focused on length. No one is longer than DeChambeau, yet he decided to leave the longest player on either side out of his morning pairings.
The argument by many is that his length is countered by his accuracy, but just think of the surge of adrenaline that a 350-yard drive would give the large throng of mostly American fans encircling the first tee.
In 2004, Hal Sutton thought the same way when he put Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods together on Friday morning, it didn’t work for many reasons, but it was electric, which was what Sutton was going for in front of a home crowd.
“We are trying to make sure that everybody gets a little bit of rest, too,” Stricker explained as a reason for sitting the 28-year-old DeChambeau. “That's in the back of our mind, and yeah, we can't play everybody every session, right. Four people have to sit, but he's going to get his turn at some point.”
At 6’ 1”, 240 pounds, and trained up to compete in a long-drive contest later this month, it doesn’t seem like fatigue would be an issue, even if DeChambeau was tapped to play five matches.
When you consider that DeChambeau won a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, a course known to put a premium on accurate driving, by six shots, it seems worth the gamble to stick DeChambeau out there and see if his game and Whistling Straits are compatible.
If not, so be it, but this is when you make those decisions — early — not when you're forced to shuffle the lineup when the team is behind, or a pairing did not click as expected.
DeChambeau is a needle-mover on a team devoid of such players. It's hardly a foregone conclusion that the U.S. team's fortunes hang on this decision. But DeChambeau clearly has the most pop on the team, and his natural game could bring the house down. It would seem obvious to light the fuse and see what happens.
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