US Open: Bryson DeChambeau's hard work, belief and dedication the key to taming Winged Foot
"We shouldn't forget that he works harder than any other golfer and is not frightened to take risks with his body and his swing"
Last Updated: 22/09/20 12:42pm
After Bryson's DeChambeau overpowered a tough Winged Foot course and the best players in the world to win his first US Open, David Livingstone salutes a worthy champion and calls for a "truce in hostilities"...
They say winning takes care of everything and, in the case of Bryson DeChambeau, a major victory may be enough to draw a line under his less likeable traits.
Two months ago, he was bullying a rules official and a cameraman in Ohio, but at the weekend he bullied both Winged Foot and the US Open no less. His golf and his demeanour were nothing short of imperious and at the end of his back-nine procession he was magnanimous enough not to say: 'I told you so'.
Those of us who had laughed when he outlined his pre-tournament strategy of hitting the ball as far as he could off the tee were suitably chastened having witnessed perhaps the most significant US Open win since Tiger (Woods) lapped the field 20 years ago at Pebble Beach.
The difference between the two is that Tiger was a natural phenomenon whereas Bryson is a man-made creation… and what a creation!
When he came back to tournament golf this year, having added 45 pounds in weight and pumped up his neck and torso, some of us wondered if Frankenstein's monster had taken up golf. Certainly, those unsavoury incidents at the Memorial Tournament in July when he berated people for simply doing their jobs suggested the young man, whose name rhymes with Dyson, had created a vacuum in his brain
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I wrote at the time how appalling his behaviour had been but, at the same time, I found it difficult to square that with the personable young man I'd met on several occasions. When he played in the Dubai Desert Classic four years ago, golf was buzzing about his eccentric ideas for clubs all the same length and with individual names, golf balls soaked in Epsom salts, and an awkward-looking rigid swing.
We set up an interview with him and he turned up right on time on the putting green and carefully laid out all his clubs for us to see. He couldn't have been more charming or cooperative and I wondered at the time if, despite being a former US Amateur champion, he was just a bit too nice and naive to get to the top of the professional game.
I remember discussing him with colleagues and the consensus was that you couldn't turn golf into anything approaching an exact science. Shows you how little we knew about how serious this kid was about pioneering a new approach to the oldest of games.
From then on, it was interesting to follow his career and see the various layers of his personality being peeled back. It was soon clear that the nice young kid had a tough core and a fiery temperament.
At the Players Championship at Sawgrass two years ago, he practised right next to our open studio and it was obvious he was a hard taskmaster who demanded total commitment from everyone around him. But it was also obvious that he led by example, working for hours on the range until he got the results he wanted.
One day, after just such a practice session, he wandered over to our studio and agreed to demonstrate and explain his complicated putting routine on our adjustable simulator.
Our studio crew created a percentage of slope which Bryson factored into his calculations before telling us exactly where he was going to hit the putt. At the last minute, he suddenly asked what was the stimpmeter reading on the artificial surface.
When we all looked at each other blankly, Bryson barked at us: 'Oh, come on guys…', and although he was smiling, we knew he was serious. In the end, one of the crew took a guess and that was added to the calculations before Bryson finally stepped up and holed the putt to relief all round.
A light-hearted moment perhaps but one that revealed how serious Bryson was about everything he did, and it was an experience that rang alarm bells about how slow he would become during tournaments when all the numbers had to be crunched before every shot.
Bryson applies science to putting
Bryson DeChambeau gives us a remarkable masterclass in the Sky Zone as he demonstrates his scientific method of putting
Watching him at the weekend with his Hoganesque cap and hearing Ewen Murray and Rich Beem talking about the iconic US Open photos of Ben Hogan wielding a one-iron at Pebble Beach and Merion, I wondered if the most compelling image of DeChambeau at Winged Foot would be one of him staring at his yardage books.
But none of that matters when it comes to the official record of the 120th US Open. It will state that he was never the wrong side of par over four days and beat Winged Foot and his nearest rivals by six shots.
His victory will, of course, re-ignite debate about driving distance and slow play but there's no doubt DeChambeau will not be distracted by the noise and will exploit any opportunity to further his drives and his ambitions in the game.
It was not a promising start to his reign as US Open champion when, at the official presentation, he ignored a perfectly reasonable first question and launched into an Oscar-style thank you to all his sponsors and support team.
But, then again, DeChambeau is a golfing luvvie whose world begins and ends with 'Project Bryson' and, whatever we think of that, we shouldn't forget that he works harder than any other golfer and is not frightened to take risks with his body and his swing.
In the spirit of golf, perhaps it's the right time to call a truce in hostilities and see if his major status confers good grace and a little self-awareness in future. There's definitely a nice person somewhere inside that incredible hulk outfit.