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
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