Bryson DeChambeau wins US Open his way: in commanding fashion
By Bill Pennington
The most repeated, and accepted, prediction before the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club was that the golf course would overwhelm the field with its time-honored combination of elusive fairways and punishing rough.
That forecast was not wrong. Every golfer but one failed to shoot under par in the championship this year.
But the most prescient prophecy came from the lone player with an under-par score in the event, Bryson DeChambeau, 27, the beefy college physics major who theorized that he would overpower Winged Foot by bombing tee shots so far that it would be irrelevant whether his ball landed in the fairway or not. Almighty distance would eclipse precision.
Not only was DeChambeau right, in the wake of his runaway six-stroke victory Sunday at the 120th U.S. Open, but golf itself may be on the cusp of acceding to the new methodologies he espouses. The counterintuitive philosophies DeChambeau has preached and his unconventional tactics, including his belief that an intense strength-training regimen can significantly augment what has been largely considered a finesse sport, now have the validation of a major championship title.
Tens of thousands of young golfers watching DeChambeau dominate the field as he easily surpassed Matthew Wolff, the third-round leader who finished second, may be moved to emulate the new, hard-swinging U.S. Open champion. So, in fact, might many of his brethren, even those who mocked DeChambeau as an overanalytical eccentric.
Most of the 20-something pro golfers, like the 21-year-old Wolff, already swing harder and do more weight training than their predecessors. But DeChambeau has gone further than anyone else, and not just symbolically. His average drive off the tee traveled 325 yards, the longest for any U.S. Open champion. He also shot 67 on Sunday, the only under-par round of the day.
“I think I’m definitely changing the way people think of the game,” DeChambeau, whose four-day score was 274, or six-under par. He added: “The next generation that’s coming up into golf hopefully will see this and go, ‘Hey, I can do that, too.’ I’ve just wanted to just keep pressing the status quo.”
He has done that and more. Next, DeChambeau will turn his iconoclastic deliberations toward conquering the Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters Tournament in two months. Its golf course, which is almost devoid of rough, is susceptible to a power game, especially now that DeChambeau has proved he can win at Winged Foot, where the victor’s score was five-over par the last time the club hosted the U.S. Open, in 2006.
DeChambeau is 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds — he gained 40 pounds this winter in an attempt to swing more forcefully — but Sunday evening he was asked if he wanted to become bigger before the Masters.
“Yeah, I think I can get to 245; it’s going to be a lot of working out,” he answered.
The extraordinary ball speeds he routinely generates — in excess of 200 mph — have attracted most of the attention this season, but DeChambeau is far from a one-trick pony.
Long before he bulked up, he was an NCAA and U.S. Amateur champion and exhibited the deft skills near the green necessary to be a good short game player. He is a six-time winner on the PGA Tour and last month finished tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, the first golf major of the season.
On Sunday, DeChambeau relied on all of his faculties to turn the mammoth drives off the tee into three birdies, 14 pars and only one bogey.
On the first hole, Wolff, who began the round with a two-stroke lead, outdrove DeChambeau, his playing partner. DeChambeau nonetheless hit his approach shot more than 7 feet closer to the hole than Wolff did. With steadier putting, DeChambeau erased Wolff’s lead by the fourth hole and took the lead on the next hole, when he sank a 7-foot par putt and Wolff missed his par attempt from 10 feet.
DeChambeau gained two more strokes on Wolff at the 10th and 11th holes, but he exhibited the somewhat-underappreciated depth of his talent for golf at the 14th hole, which was also a turning point.
DeChambeau hit only six of 14 fairways on Sunday, and his drive from the 14th tee was one of his worst — pulled left and into the deepest grass on the hole. He had 135 yards to a sloped green that might reject a shot from rough that typically would lack spin, or one that landed too close to the hole.
“I’ve got a lot of creativity,” DeChambeau said, explaining what transpired next.
He had an uphill lie and decided that would make it easier to hit his golf ball near the top of the face of an iron. It would reduce the impact of his swing and, in DeChambeau’s mind, let the ball land short of the green but still have some roll.
When DeChambeau made contact it sounded like a flubbed shot — as if too much grass had lodged between the club and the ball. But that was the plan.
“The ball came out dead because of the lie, and it rolled down there to 10 feet from the hole,” DeChambeau said.
He made his par putt, and Wolff missed his. The rout was on.
“That was huge,” DeChambeau said. “If I don’t make that and he makes his, you know, we’ve got a fight.”
There were no other serious contenders DeChambeau had to worry about. Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 73 on Sunday, was in third place, eight strokes back.
After hoisting the trophy, a smiling DeChambeau was already plotting the other breakthroughs he has for golf. They include a longer, 48-inch driver — the kind more commonly used in long driving competitions, where accuracy is not paramount. He will test some new driver heads, too.
“Tiger inspired this whole generation to do this, and we’re going to keep going after it,” DeChambeau said of Tiger Woods, who missed the weekend cut. “I don’t think it’s going to stop.”
Looking almost bemused, he paused before adding: “I kept telling everybody it’s an advantage to hit it farther.”