On this Tuesday evening of U.S Open week, I sit in my hotel on the tail end of a 36-hole bonanza where I saw firsthand what Jon Rahm, Sam Burns, and Xander Schauffele are bringing to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Right off the bat, it needs to be said that all three of these players are custom fit to perform well here. Winning the U.S Open requires a complete game; you can’t just putt or ball hit your way to a win. You have to do everything at an 8 out of 10. EVERYTHING at that level. No one fakes their way to a U.S Open title.
There are however certain clubs for each player that I think need to perform better than others, after seeing it all up close for two days, I believe these are the key sticks.
Jon Rahm: Jaws Forged 60
This is actually a weird thing to even say. In my opinion Jon is arguably one of the best wedge players of his generation. However just because it’s a key club, doesn’t mean it’s something he struggles with. More so that when Jon is sharp around the greens it seems to take the pressure off the rest of his game, especially his putter.
Statistically this season, it’s around the greens where Jon’s stats look mortal. However, when you look at PGA Tour stats you have to look at it from a few different angles.
Yes, his Tour ranks don’t look all that shiny, but any slight uptick (and I mean slight) in that category takes him from a favorite to win to a lock. His ball-striking is so good that even one more up and down per round could make Jon unbeatable.
The point is, if #rahmbo short games it this week AND hits it just normal, good luck to everyone else. That should put into perspective just how good of a ball-striker he is. If he climbed into the Top 75 in those short game categories, JR is winning 7 or 8 times a year. It’s that simple.
Some people may say it’s the putter that needs to ramp up, I tend to disagree. He’s a momentum player pure and simple and when he wedges it, he putts it better. There is something about knowing you can chip it close from anywhere that frees up the putting stroke. It’s the difference between chipping it closer and having a 5-footer (85%) instead of an 8-footer (48%). Makes sense to me.
Sam Burns: Rogue ST 💎💎💎 Driver
This is the club that has taken Sam from a young up-and-comer to the 9th-ranked player in the world. It’s the club that opens up the rest of the bag. His stats tell us that Sam is dominant out of the fairway (11th in proximity to the hole) and a non-factor out of the rough (191st). The key yardages at The Country Club fall in the 125-175 region, and statistically, Sam is at or near the top in most categories in that yardage range.
In simple terms, if he hits fairways, he’s in the hunt come Sunday. Yes, that could be said for many players, but according to the stats, Sam gets really scary for the rest of the field when he finds the short grass, especially with the driver.
Xander Schauffele: Odyssey #7 Putter
Like the other two, Xander’s ball-striking is at an almost God-like level, but his putting from 5-10 feet has kept him out of the winners circle more often than he’d like. Oddly enough, Xander is excellent from 6 and 7 feet (51st and 21st), but it’s from 5-feet (178th), 8-feet (101st), 9-feet (177th), and 10-feet (186th) that the stats dip drastically. Why? It’s hard to say, but in Major Championships, 8-10 feet is a distance you will see a lot of. If Xander can see some putts fall from that range, like Burns with the driver, it opens up the rest of the bag. It’s funny how every player has a momentum trigger in the bag, and for Xander, it’s that range. He is right at the top when the stats in that range see even a slight uptick.
What did we learn?
At this level, it comes down to the minutia, and when you are analyzing elite ball-strikers like these three, you have to dig deep to find that one trigger representing the difference between a Top-10 or a win. When I look at the stats, it’s clear even more just how good these three players really are; better yet, I see the absolute brilliance in how complete their games are.
Think of it this way, if one of these clubs gets just a little better for any one of these three, they win. Period.