8:19 PM ET
- Senior editor for college basketball
- Joined ESPN in 2008
- Graduate of the University of Maryland
MAMORONECK, N.Y. — As Bryson DeChambeau walked the final fairway at Winged Foot early Sunday evening, heading toward the iconic clubhouse that was about to be the backdrop for a photo opportunity with the U.S. Open trophy, there was quiet.
It seemed fitting, really, because his performance, a four-day exhibition of strength across one of the most treacherous golf courses on the planet, silenced anyone who questioned his methods, muted those who laughed as he put on 30 pounds and started swinging for the fences, shushed people who mocked his scientific approach to golf.
“There’s always going to be people that say things,” DeChambeau said.
This way of playing — of carrying every bunker, of cutting every dogleg, of taking power over precision — could never work. Even his peers, the best players in the world, thought it.
“I sort of said, ‘OK, wait until he gets to a proper golf course. He’ll have to rein it back in,'” Rory McIlroy said. “[Winged Foot] is as proper as they come, and look what’s happened. He’s got full belief in what he’s doing, and it’s pretty impressive. It’s kind of hard to really wrap my head around it.”
To DeChambeau, this has always made sense. Where others were confused, he was clear. As the outside world failed to grasp it, the blueprint in his mind was focused, the end result a foregone conclusion. The world would see his vision.
“So many times I relied on science, and it worked every single time,” DeChambeau said.
For more than a century, there has been a formula to winning this championship. The mandate at the U.S. Open has always been accuracy. Find the fairway so you can hit the green, make par and move on with your day. Do not, under any circumstances, wander into the rough. Because that is where bogeys and doubles hide, waiting to attach themselves to the spikes of visitors. Over four days, DeChambeau hit 23 of 56 fairways, four fewer than anyone else who has won this event.
“I would have said no way,” Zach Johnson said when asked if he thought someone could win this title this way — by disregarding fairways. “No chance.”
With that in mind, let’s get this on the record: Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open by 6 shots. He was the only player in the field to post an under-par score on Sunday, shooting a 3-under 67. In the six times Winged Foot has hosted this championship, he is only the second player to not have one score over par in four days.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does,” McIlroy said.
Perhaps, then, it’s best to let DeChambeau explain what others cannot. Here is how he would tell people about his victory.
“He’s hitting it forever,” DeChambeau said. “That’s why he won.”
Even before this, the results seemed to confirm the science. DeChambeau finished third at the Charles Schwab Challenge, golf’s first event back after the three-month shutdown because of the coronavirus. He added three more top-10s in a row, then won the Rocket Mortgage Challenge and contended at the PGA Championship, finishing tied for fourth. Still, not everyone was convinced.
“I thought, ‘I can see it for week in and week out [on] PGA TOUR setups that are a little more benign,'” McIlroy said.
But not here. Not at Winged Foot, with its narrow fairways and deep rough, its sloped greens and long history of inflicting punishment. DeChambeau smirked and continued down his own path.
He kept heading to the gym. He kept eating steak and downing protein shake after protein shake. He kept swinging as hard as humanly possible. He kept checking his launch monitors, running his numbers. He kept taking aggressive lines no one else in the field dared to take.
“He’s a man of his word,” said Xander Schauffele, who finished fourth.
DeChambeau isn’t shy about his plan. He is unafraid to suggest that he does, in fact, have all the answers.
“It’s a lot of validation through science, just making sure that the numbers are what they are and the result is accurate,” he said. “I know I’ve done everything I can in my brain to make my perception reality.
For months, he defended himself and his methods — at times using big words that required a dictionary, at all times using a lot of words in run-on sentences.
“I’m just trying to figure out this very complex, multivariable game and multidimensional game,” he said as he sat next to the U.S. Open trophy. “So it’s all about trying to make my perception of what I feel, what I think, what I — you know, whatever it is, turn into proper reality.”
But that’s the thing: To him that all made sense. Every thought bouncing around his brain computes. If others cannot see it, too bad. If others are afraid to follow his path, that’s on them.
“It’s not something that I probably would have done at his age,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a wrong approach, and it doesn’t mean it’s something that couldn’t be advantageous. I’m extremely impressed because he — I’ve had talks with him. Obviously, he’s cerebral. That’s pretty generalizing there. He’s very, very strategic and always trying to get better.”
In June, DeChambeau started referring to himself as a casino, eager to take gambles. He insisted that he is the house. He isn’t finished rolling the dice.
“I’m not going to stop,” he said.
He wants to put on another 10 or 15 pounds.
“Right now, I’m 230 to 235, depending on if I’ve eaten steak or not,” he said.
Despite pummeling Winged Foot, he says he’s going to test a 48-inch driver and fiddle with different club heads. The experiment is far from over. The search to hit it farther never stops.
“It’s tough to rein in athleticism,” he said. “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. … I just know that length is always going to be an advantage.”
DeChambeau can talk about this forever if you let him. He can explain every thought, break down every decision. He can go through what he was thinking and why he was thinking it.
On Sunday at Winged Foot, with the trophy in his hands, a major champion for the first time, Bryson DeChambeau had the last word.