US Open win­ner DeCham­beau is chang­ing the game for ever

The 27-year-old’s stun­ning US Open vic­tory may prove piv­otal as game’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies are urged to in­ter­vene

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan golf cor­re­spon­dent

And for his next trick… Af­ter stun­ning the golf world with his out­ra­geous per­for­mance at the US Open, in which he made the rest in­vis­i­ble in his sixshot sub­ju­ga­tion, Bryson DeCham­beau now plans to use a 48-inch driver at the Mas­ters in seven weeks’ time. And that is a mighty wand by any stan­dard.

In­deed, the rules state that is the max­i­mum-length shaft al­lowed. With his new sta­tus, it would a brave and per­haps even chal­leng­ing ploy on DeCham­beau’s be­half af­ter what many ex­perts con­sider to be a fun­da­men­tal mo­ment in the his­tory of the game at Winged Foot, New York, on Sun­day night.

It was not meant to hap­pen like this; no­body was meant to over­power Winged Foot, with its pen­cilthin fair­ways, its brush-thick rough and greens so slopey and fast that ink, it­self, would roll off. Yet DeCham­beau ig­nored all the warn­ings, all the prom­ises of car­nage, and pro­ceeded to blow straight over a sup­posed mon­ster.

DeCham­beau hit only 23 of the 56 fair­ways, the least of any

US Open cham­pion since they started col­lect­ing data 30 years ago, and av­er­aged 325 yards in driv­ing dis­tance, con­versely the fur­thest by any US

Open win­ner – and it is fair to say this de­spite the lack of yes­ter­year records – in his­tory.

DeCham­beau is a revo­lu­tion­ary and, like ev­ery rene­gade, there are calls for him to be con­strained.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, the BBC web­site called for the gov­ern­ing bod­ies fi­nally to in­ter­vene and ar­rest this “bomb and gouge” cul­ture that threat­ens to quash the spec­ta­cle of any nu­ance and in­stead to be starkly one-di­men­sional while pro­tect­ing the clas­sic cour­ses at the same time.

As en­thralling as DeCham­beau’s clos­ing 67 – the only un­der-par round of the day and thus the low­est by a stag­ger­ing three shots – un­doubt­edly was, the fear is that an era of sledge­ham­mer and wedge play could be­come in­creas­ingly dull. Rory McIl­roy was at least coura­geous enough to pose the ques­tion: “Is this good or bad for the game?” be­fore em­pha­sis­ing how im­pressed he was.

Much was made when DeCham­beau ap­peared post-lock­down car­ry­ing 40lb of new mus­cle, but, at the time, McIl­roy was un­moved. “I played with him at Colo­nial the first week back out and I sort of said, ‘OK, wait un­til he gets to a proper golf course, he’ll have to rein it back in’,” McIl­roy said. “But look what’s hap­pened. Yeah, he has full be­lief in what he’s do­ing and I think it’s bril­liant. He has taken ad­van­tage of where the game is at the minute.”

Golf is now at a cross­roads and with DeCham­beau’s bombs fly­ing over their heads, the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion and the R & A must de­cide if they at last want to draw a line. A tour­na­ment ball would be the sim­plest fix, al­though it would mean the pros play­ing with dif­fer­ent equip­ment to the hack­ers (in truth, they do any­way) and los­ing that myth­i­cal con­nec­tion be­tween am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional. The USGA and R&A re­vealed in a re­port re­leased this year a will­ing­ness to act, and the pres­sure is on now more than ever be­fore, re­gard­less of any po­ten­tial le­gal wars.

How­ever, DeCham­beau does not sound wor­ried. “Will they rein it back? I’m sure,” he said. “I’m sure some­thing might hap­pen. I don’t know what it will be, but I just know that length is al­ways go­ing to be an ad­van­tage. It’s tough to rein in ath­leti­cism. We’re al­ways go­ing to be try­ing to get fit­ter, stronger, more ath­letic. Tiger Woods in­spired this whole gen­er­a­tion to do this, and we’re go­ing to keep go­ing af­ter it. I don’t think it’s go­ing to stop.”

Tim Tucker, his cad­die, is cer­tain. “Bryson’s never go­ing to stop,” he said. “He’s go­ing to keep push­ing it.”

But at what ex­pense? Not to the 27-year-old, of course, his $2.25mil­lion (£1.76mil­lion) win­nings have taken him above $20mil­lion ca­reer earn­ings al­ready and good­ness knows the bonuses of­fered up by Co­bra, the club man­u­fac­turer that must feel like Jimi Hen­drix’s elec­tric gui­tar-maker af­ter Wood­stock.

Yet to a sport pet­ri­fied of par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els and of re­tain­ing the view­ers and spon­sors brought in by Woods, des­per­ate in the knowl­edge that it can­not sim­ply just keep ex­pand­ing lay­outs be­cause of cost and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, this ap­pears a piv­otal time.

An­drew Coltart, the fine Sky Sports an­a­lyst, spoke of chil­dren watch­ing and a gen­er­a­tion of “Baby Brysons”, while there are big-hit­ters al­ready on Tour who be­lieve they can ri­val DeCham­beau for dis­tance if they just al­lowed them­selves to press the 100 per cent but­ton. Tony Finau, Dustin John­son, Cameron Champ and Brooks Koepka to name but a hand­ful. It was the lat­ter’s ex­am­ple when win­ning last year’s USPGA that con­vinced DeCham­beau that brawn was the eye-strain­ing way for­ward. It was not just that Koepka out­drove him by 20 yards at Beth­page, but that he had the power not only to es­cape the cab­bage, but do so with con­trol.

All the talk of DeCham­beau beck­on­ing a le­gion of copy­cat aerial killers over­looks the fact that the Cal­i­for­nian, him­self, has been in em­u­la­tion mode, al­beit with a de­sire to move things fur­ther along.

His is a grip­ping story that is sadly not awarded its full lime­light by a neg­a­tive rep­u­ta­tion in the locker room. Ian Poul­ter seemed to sum up the gen­eral feel­ing when tweet­ing on Sun­day night: “He’s not my cup of tea, but I have huge re­spect for him… chang­ing his body and win­ning a ma­jor his way.”

DeCham­beau re­mains one of the slow­est, most de­lib­er­ate play­ers out there and that marks him down among his fel­low pros as self­ish. His peers did not ap­pre­ci­ate the per­func­tory, al­most dis­mis­sive man­ner in which he con­grat­u­lated the Eng

‘He has full be­lief in what he’s do­ing. He has taken ad­van­tage of where the game is at the minute’

lish jour­ney­man Richard McEvoy when los­ing a head-to-head at the Euro­pean Open in 2018.

There was eye-rolling this year when he con­fronted a cam­era­man who dared to film his an­gry re­ac­tion in a bunker, ac­cus­ing him of “po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing my brand”, and there were scowls of de­ri­sion when he had a few run-ins with ref­er­ees over re­quests for free drops, in­clud­man­ual ing when he claimed to have spot­ted a fire ant by his ball that classed as a “dan­ger­ous an­i­mal”.

Yes, he is di­vi­sive, but this brash, bom­bas­tic per­son­al­ity should still not sully achievemen­ts built on a stag­ger­ing work ethic and a unique vi­sion to do things dif­fer­ently.

As a 15-year-old, he snubbed the Xbox for The Golf­ing Ma­chine, a ridicu­lously com­pli­cated teach­ing from which a player can con­struct his own swing with 24 com­po­nents and 144 vari­a­tions.

DeCham­beau cut all his clubs to the same length – of a seven-iron – so he could have a sin­gle one-plane mo­tion for ul­tra-repet­i­tive mo­tion. The physics stu­dent tried things like soak­ing his golf balls in Ep­som salts and em­ploy­ing pro­trac­tors to as­cer­tain ex­act yardages. His metic­u­lous­ness bore rich fruit, es­tab­lish­ing him as the world’s best am­a­teur, be­fore tak­ing the pro game by storm, win­ning six times around the globe in his first 30 months.

Here was some­thing dif­fer­ent, they all said, but only now do they re­alise quite how dif­fer­ent and quite how re­bel­lious.

Au­gusta Na­tional is next and DeCham­beau vows to put on 10lb more of body weight and three inches more on his driver. “Next week, I’m go­ing to be try­ing a 48-inch driver,” he said. “We’re go­ing to be mess­ing with some head de­signs with Co­bra to make it fea­si­ble to hit these drives maybe 360, 370, maybe even far­ther.

“Length is go­ing to be an ad­van­tage at the Mas­ters. It’s an ad­van­tage pretty much any­where. So steak and pota­toes tonight. Got to keep it go­ing.”

Power play: Bryson DeCham­beau’s av­er­aged 325-yard drives but hit only 23 of 56 fair­ways

Ma­jor cham­pion: Amer­i­can Bryson DeCham­beau hit a clos­ing 67, the only score un­der par in the fi­nal round, to win the US Open by six shots

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