The Englishman believes the variety of playing styles on tour shows the game is in a good place
Lee Westwood Weighs Into The Distance Debate: ‘Golf Is In A Healthy Place’
Lee Westwood has said Bryson DeChambeau’s style of golf is “great to watch” and insists “golf is in a good place” despite an ever-increasing number of calls for an equipment rollback.
The Englishman’s comments came after his final round duel with the big-hitting American at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in which he got a front-row seat for what’s been coined the ‘bomb-and-gouge’ strategy.
It’s been a hot topic of late, and DeChambeau’s well-publicised mission to pack on the pounds and make huge gains with his driver seems to have been the catalyst for change as the governing bodies have since taken action.
After launching the Distance Insights Report last year, the R&A and USGA recently released details of their research conducted, accompanied by a set of potential changes intended to “result in shorter hitting distances”, among other things.
However, as well as several other top professionals, Westwood believes there is nothing wrong with the game the way it is and welcomed the fact there are a variety of different playing styles on tour.
“I think golf’s in a good place, I don’t know what everybody is panicking about,” the 47-year-old said.
“I think it’s exciting to watch right now, there are a lot of combinations.
“You’ve got Bryson, obviously, and then I suppose myself who is nearly 48 and can still contend with people like Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa who won last week.
“He’s a young lad who hits it a long way, but you wouldn’t say he hits it miles.
“Then you’ve got Rory [McIlroy] and people like that; Rory’s game is great to watch.
“So golf is in a healthy place if you ask me. I don’t see the big problem that everybody is making out.”
Westwood had to settle for second place at the firm and fiery Bay Hill, finishing a shot behind his playing partner, but for all the talk of DeChambeau’s distance off the tee, the Englishman was also impressed by other parts of his game that tend to get overlooked.
“He’s worked hard in the gym and he’s worked on his technique to hit it a long way and it’s not easy to hit it that straight as far as he hits it.
“People are going to have advantages and his is obviously length. He can overpower a golf course.
“But what impressed me about Bryson was some of the iron shots he hit into the wind.
“The way he kept the ball down at 17, the par-3.
“He was hitting 6-iron off some tees where I was hitting a hybrid and really knocking it down and holding it into the wind.
“That’s an aspect of his game I don’t think people appreciate.”
It’s notable that DeChambeau’s last two wins have come at venues playing exceedingly tough. He was the only man to finish under par when he won the US Open by six shots at Winged Foot, and even the scoring at Bay Hill was relatively high for normal PGA Tour standards.
So if long and tight with wickedly thick rough isn’t the answer, then how do you ‘Bryson-proof’ a golf course? In short, you don’t, or can’t, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to win every week. In among three victories in his last 15 starts have been just as many missed cuts as top-20 finishes.
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There is an art to every form of golf. Some is undoubtedly more delicate and pleasing to the eye, while others abrupt and abrasive, but they all have their merits. Even judging how a wedge shot is going to react out of a bad lie in the rough after murdering a tee shot an obscene distance takes finesse.
The game of golf isn’t meant to be played just one way; if it was we’d all have tuned out a long time ago.
Whether the governing bodies implement some form of rollback remains to be seen, and the impact of such a change will no doubt ensure this debate rages on, but in the meantime, we should enjoy every non-sensical facet of this maddening game for what it is.