Bryson DeChambeau

How Bryson DeChambeau went to great lengths to win the U.S. Open – ESPN

8:19 PM ET

  • Nick


    • 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.”

Wait, what?

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.

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DeChambeau Trying

DeChambeau trying to buck Harbour Town trend –

HILTON HEAD, S.C. – With its narrow fairways lined by all those gnarled live oaks and stately pines, Harbour Town has never been particularly kind to the big hitters on the PGA TOUR.

The one notable exception would be five-time RBC Heritage champion Davis Love III, who ranked second on TOUR in driving distance when he won his first plaid jacket in 1987 and 17th or better for the other four.

RELATED: Full leaderboard

Since Love won his fifth title in 2003, though, no winner at Harbour Town has averaged over 300 yards or been ranked inside the top 34 in driving distance at the end of the season. In fact, nine of the last 11 champions have ranked 118th or higher with Brian Gay clocking in at 268.5 yards and 183rd in 2005.

Dustin Johnson tried to buck the trend a year ago, taking the lead into the final round before unraveling with a 41 on the back nine Sunday, shooting 77 and falling back into a tie for 28th. He’s back in the hunt at 8 under through two rounds this year.

The most intriguing name on the leaderboard, though, belongs to Bryson DeChambeau, who spent the last six months working out, inhaling power shakes and adding about 40 pounds of mostly muscle to his frame. His swing speed has increased accordingly and sometimes clocks out over 190. He’s tied for second at 11 under, a shot behind Webb Simpson.

As luck would have it, Love played with DeChambeau in the first two rounds and he came away impressed. Take the 16th hole Thursday where he drove it 282 yards and the man they call the Mad Scientist – a nickname that begs for a change given his dramatic transformation – was 54 yards past.

“Well, now I know how I made some guys feel, I guess,” Love said. “He got me really good at 16. That’s when I realized holy moly, because I hit a good drive at 16 and he just flew it over into the corner. …

“What’s impressive is how straight it’s going. He not only got longer, but he got straighter, and it looks like it’s under control, and it actually looks like it could go farther if he didn’t try to make sure it went straight. “

DeChambeau came to Hilton Head with considerable momentum after a tie for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge where he had a putt on the 18th hole to join the playoff won by Daniel Berger. In five of the six events he’s played in 2020, the SMU product has not finished out of the top 5.

DeChambeau admits he’s been harnessed by Harbour Town this week. On Thursday he said he couldn’t “unleash the Kraken,” and he didn’t use the driver at all in the second round. The 3-wood with a slight draw was trusty, though, and he roared home Friday with six birdies on the front and a 64.

“I can’t,” he explained when asked about hitting the driver. “It’s just this golf course, it’s so difficult to try to fit into these tight areas where, if you miss it offline, like I did last week a couple times on a couple holes, there I’ll be, where last week they were just in the rough and I was still able to get to the green.”

Even when the Kraken is in the bag, though, DeChambeau’s distance gains are evident in other ways. Where he once was hitting 6- and 7-irons, he’s now reaching for a wedge or a 9-iron.

“That’s a huge change for me that’s allowed me to go and attack flags a lot more, be more aggressive, not really have to try and fit it into this little spot down on the fairway out here and really attack those flags,” he said. “So I feel like for me my game after quarantine, the distance has really just made that strokes gained advantage, it’s just put it to a whole new level for me.”

While Simpson has worked hard over the last three years to gain distance and speed, he remains the antithesis to DeChambeau. He’s gained about 20 pounds on his still slender frame and his ball speed has gone up about four or five mph but still isn’t in the upper 170s where he’d like to top out.

Instead of power like DeChambeau, Simpson, who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, relies on distance control and precise iron play. His putter has been particularly strong this week, too and he ranks first in Strokes Gained – Putting at 6.402.

“It’s very satisfying knowing like I’m not near as long as some of these guys and I’m able to kind of use my skills of distance control and shot shape to kind of pick me back up when I’m 40 yards or 30 yards behind these guys,” Simpson said.

“I would like to hit it further. I set out on a journey three years ago to get stronger, hit it further, but do it a lot slower than Bryson, but he’s made it look easy and seamless.”

Simpson isn’t surprised at DeChambeau’s physical transformation as much as he is the way his Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teammate has adjusted to the new body so quickly.

“I’ve been amazed and impressed with how he’s been able to swing it so well,” Simpson said. “Last week he lost by a shot. This week he’s right there.

“I think that’s the most impressive thing is he’s been able to take this body that he’s never played with before and still play just as good, if not better.”

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