DeChambeau In Great Shape For The Players Championship

After a typically hard-hitting performance at Bay Hill last week where he recorded another victory, American Bryson DeChambeau will start today’s The Players Championship tournament in Florida as one of the favourites for the event.

DeChambeau, who famously piled on 20kg of muscle to gain extra distance with his golf shots, has already been at the centre of controversy at the event in Florida. After claiming he may look to play the 18th by hitting to the 9th fairway to the left, rather than the 18th fairway to the right, tournament organisers have moved to have this shot option ruled illegal.

However, his win after holding off a resurgent Lee Westwood at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last week has put him in an excellent position heading into the tournament that many top professionals feel is harder to win than a Major championship. So much so, that this tournament has garnered the nickname “the fifth Major” on tour.

Of course, the action begins today in Florida and with good weather seemingly the order of the day, the players are going to find out whether the notoriously tricky conditions at The Stadium Course are helped or hindered by fine playing conditions.

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There will be certainly a few fans from Modesto in California hoping that their golfing superstar can earn his ninth PGA Tour win just one week after winning his eight. So what are DeChambeau’s chances of doubling up this week?

DeChambeau’s Chances At Sawgrass

At over 7,100 yards long, Sawgrass is certainly a course that a long-hitter can have a distinct advantage on. Particularly on some of the par five holes and even on some of the par fours which, for a player like DeChambeau, are potentially drivable given favourable conditions.

Another positive for the player is the state of his putting game, which has been an Achilles heel at times. He was superb on the greens at Bay Hill and it was this, rather than his play tee-to-green that probably edged him home over Westwood last Sunday.

Putting is a key element of any winner at Sawgrass and if DeChambeau’s putter remains hot, then he could well put himself in contention regardless of how far he hits the ball.

There is no doubt that DeChambeau will be hoping his length off the tee could be a huge asset on a number of shorter par fours. The fourth (384 yards), sixth (393 yards) and twelfth (358 yards) are three holes he will look to use to his advantage. While the twelfth is in range of a drive for DeChambeau, the others may be if weather conditions are in his favour.

However, it will also be on the par five holes where the distance off the tee will be a huge advantage, notably on the second, eleventh and sixteenth holes, all of which DeChambeau will be hoping to reach the green in two shots.

So someone in great putting form, who won last week and who achieved that victory despite only playing a tee-to-green game that he rated as a “C” after the tournament. That sounds very promising for DeChambeau, but Sawgrass has its own defences against the big hitters, so what could go wrong?

What Will DeChambeau Have To Be Wary Of?

The first thing DeChambeau will have to be cautious of is how the course will be set up. Sawgrass is always a very tough test and it is set up pretty much as a Major championship course. Wayward shots into the rough therefore can be harshly penalised.

Sawgrass is also exceptionally well bunkered with some clever positioning of these hazards on a number of holes ready to gobble up any errant tee shots. DeChambeau may be able to drive past some of these hazards though, but there are others that he may then bring into play.

The untended waste bunkers are more off-line but are equally tough to get out of if found. DeChambeau can be a little erratic at times, especially when driving the ball hard and far and these bunkers, which are not tended by the grounds staff, can be filled with some nasty hazards and are best avoided.

Then of course there is the finishing holes. The famous island 17th green is one of the most iconic in golf and although it is just a pitching wedge for most professionals, hitting the green can be tricky. DeChambeau’s pitching wasn’t perhaps as sharp as it could have been last week, and this hole has been a round-wrecker for even the best players over the years.

Then we come to the 18th, which DeChambeau now cannot play as he proposed before the tournament, by driving to the left towards the 9th fairway, rather than to the right to the 18th. This option has now been categorised as out of bounds forcing DeChambeau to play to the 18th fairway but that brings into play plenty of water and this makes it a much tougher hole to finish the tournament.

Will DeChambeau Win Again This Week At Sawgrass?

The American golfer polarises opinions in many ways. His methodical and unusual approach to golf has earned him the nickname “The Scientist” and he has been outspoken on more than a few issues and ruffled a few feathers within professional circles.

However, there is no doubting his talent and the US Open Champion certainly has the game and temperament to win another top prize at Sawgrass this week.

That said, doubling up on wins one week after another is a rare phenomenon in golf, especially when one tournament falls the very next week after the other. While I expect DeChambeau to be in the reckoning, I think he may just fall short this week.

So Who Is The Likely Winner?

Picking a winner in such a high-quality event is tough but if I was looking for a golfer to back for the win market alone then I would back Justin Thomas. The American former world number 1 has been out of sorts for a little while now, his last win was back in August 2020, but he has the game to really take advantage of what Sawgrass has to offer.

The question is whether he can find the form that took him to World Number 1 after a spell without performing to his best, however if any player is due a good event, it is probably Thomas.

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