Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee is paid to share his opinions, and rarely does the former Tour pro play it down the middle.
What keeps viewers tuning in — whether out of spite or in a search of insight — is Chamblee’s ability to present an argument from an angle that is not typically explored.
This week at the WGC-Mexico Championship, while many blamed a cold putter for Woods’ inability to challenge eventual winner Dustin Johnson over the weekend, Chamblee went a different route, questioning Woods’ course strategy.
Woods put into place a conservative gameplan in which he hit iron or fairway woods off many of Club de Golf Chapultepec’s tree-lined tees. As a result, Woods was facing much longer approaches into the tricky green complexes, which in turn didn’t do his putter any favors, Chamblee argued.
“At Hoylake, I get that because his irons would finish out there where the rest of the field was,” Chamblee said speaking on Golf Central of Woods’ 2006 Open Championship victory in which he hit driver only once over 72 holes. “They would go 300 yards and there was trouble everywhere, but here, realizing the success that a Dustin Johnson has had here in the past, and even realizing that Phil Mickelson won here playing aggressive golf, to try to come in here and play this conservative…
“And just to underscore my point, there is a stat that says the percentage of the hole covered by your tee shots on par fours and par fives, there is only one player in the entire field — and that’s Matthew Millar — who is shorter off the tees on par fours and par fives. And by the way, Matthew Millar’s clubhead speed is in the low 100s. Tiger Woods has clubhead speed upwards of 120 miles an hour. So just chew on that a little bit.
Tiger continuing with the most bizarrely conservative strategy I have seen since I’ve been covering golf. He averaged over 200 yards on his approach shots yesterday, and 211 so far in round 4. Swinging beautifully, but hard to close the gap without making a few eagles. pic.twitter.com/yPlWFOAwjw
— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) February 24, 2019
“Take a look at the second and 12th holes. I bring these up because these are two holes that Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are taking driver on and turning them into eagle-able — that’s a word, I heard it on TV today — and birdie holes. Dustin Johnson hit it four feet today (on No. 2) and made eagle, and then here at the 12th, again Tiger Woods, his tee shot went 257 yards and left him 136 yards. Rory’s driving this green. Dustin Johnson is having a go at this green.
“Dustin Johnson has played two and 12 6-under par. Rory McIlroy has played two and 12 4-under par. Tiger Woods has played them 2-under par. Prime scoring opportunities, he’s got plenty of clubhead speed to be aggressive, he’s driving the ball as straight or straighter than they are when he chooses to hit driver. It’s just an inexplicable head scratcher to me that he would take on a strategy that would not allow him to win this tournament.”
Woods did lead the field in strokes gained: approach to the green, picking up more than 8 strokes on the field average, but his strokes gained off the tee were 66th in a 72-man field, losing more than four strokes to the field average.
Tiger talked exclusive to our @hennizuel Sunday night about his putting struggles, his “amazing experience” playing in Mexico for the first time, and his plans for the upcoming Florida swing. pic.twitter.com/Tg1cZRMg9j
— GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) February 25, 2019
Chamblee’s point is well taken and Woods’ driving statistics back him up — Tiger, despite conventional knowledge, ranks 15th on the PGA Tour this year in total driving against McIlroy’s ranking of 57th and Johnson’s rank of 119.
However, the penalty for missing fairways at Chapultepec’s fairways could be stark if not done so in the correct spots, and Woods clearly believed he had the best chance to score the best by laying back of his playing partners and competitors off the tee.
Woods ended the week at 8-under par and in a tie for 10th place.