viz blog
Golf Gods Giveth, and Golf Gods Taketh Away
It seems like just yesterday that an enlarged Bryson DeChambeau rolled up to the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge with protein shakes in hand, ready to show off the gains he made during quarantine. The weeks that followed were a blur — clip after clip of Bryson whaling at the golf ball (with alarming accuracy) hit our Twitter feeds as he brought even the most ill-fit courses (Colonial, Harbour Town) to their knees. Much to the distress of some golf fans (ourselves included), Bryson's strategy was working: his first 4 starts after the Covid break were all Top 10s, capped off with a win at the Rocket Mortgage in Detroit.

With the dust now close to settled, let's take a look at how this shift in strategy has changed Bryson's overall skill profile. With the help of our model, we've estimated DeChambeau's skill level relative to the average PGA TOUR player in each of the four strokes-gained categories since he turned professional. The evolution of his skill profile is shown below by month since January 2017. DeChambeau's total skill prediction is the sum of the categories, indicated by the dots.
Strokes Gained Skill Prediction
1. Not surprisingly, DeChambeau's off-the-tee (SG OTT) skill jumped significantly during the 2020 season, especially after golf returned from the Covid-induced break in June. To start the year, our model predicted him to be a +0.4 SG OTT player. By July, he was almost a +1.0 SG OTT player. Since then he has maintained and even slightly improved this OTT performance.
2. It is obvious from the plot that DeChambeau used to be an elite approach player. In late 2018-early 2019 he was consistently projected to gain 0.6-0.7 strokes on approach per round. For a point of reference, Collin Morikawa's current (December 2021) SG APP skill projection is the best in the world at +0.93 per round; Bryson would have comfortably been a top 10 approach player during this period (2018-2019).
3. Since the dramatic increase in distance, DeChambeau's approach stats have not been close to the previous highs discussed in point 2. It should be noted that his approach performance was declining before he started to focus on speed. Perhaps this decline motivated him to focus on distance as it would be a more dependable way of gaining strokes.
4. With all the attention Bryson has got since bulking up, it is amazing that our model's highest SG TOTAL projection happened pre-bulk (+2.03 SG per round in Feb 2019)! To his credit, while he hasn't quite reached the heights of his former self, his new strategy of gaining strokes through driving distance (perhaps at the expense of approach) seems to be more consistent.
5. I completely forgot that Bryson used to be a bad putter pre-armlock!