When professional golf was brought to an abrupt halt a year ago at the 2020 Players Championship Bryson DeChambeau was a noticeably different body shape to the relatively skinny kid who won the US Amateur in 2015. Then lockdown happened and so did Bryson: 2.0.
And all the talk of the one-length irons, soaking his balls in Epsom salts to determine their centre of gravity, the strange putting stances and his poor time-keeping were very quickly put on the back burner. All we could talk about now was his astonishing new body shape and his even more astonishing numbers with the driver.
Away from the endless hours pounding away at the weights the rest of his time was spent eating with a daily diet of five strips of bacon, four eggs, three lots of two protein shakes, toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, protein bars, snacks, steak and potatoes.
His form, which was trending in the right direction pre-lockdown, picked up where he had left off – 3-8-6-1-MC-30-4-MC-50-22-1-8-34.
In among that lot he became a major champion and a very welcome distant also-ran at Augusta. Who knows how we will look back on his six-shot win at Winged Foot – the general line is that this was ‘the week that changed golf’ – as he bludgeoned (and chipped and putted) his way to an incredible win in New York. The star-studded leaderboard at halfway were all blown away over the weekend as DeChambeau finished the week as the only player in red figures.
In the same breath DeChambeau had either revolutionised the game in the space or a few months or, very quickly, ruined it. The latter argument not helped by talk of looking to carry the ball 400 yards and having his own par at Augusta of 67.
As it transpired he came up 18 shots short of his perceived 20-under total, a number that would eventually land Dustin Johnson his second major. He seemed to spend more time in the trees rather than three quarters of the way down all the par 5s. Golf was safe for the time-being even though we had just witnessed Johnson do something similar but without the fanfare and bold claims.
DeChambeau says a lot. In some circles it’s very welcome in a world of soundbites and cliches, in others it’s nauseating and arrogant. While Johnson shed a few out-of-character tears after being slipped inside the Green Jacket, DeChambeau couldn’t get the names of sponsors out quick enough.
But everyone’s listening; the authorities are making noises about quietening down the clubs and ball and even the possibility of a 48-inch driver, something that never materialised at the Masters, was proposed as something would be clipped.
This week at the 18th at Sawgrass there was talk of DeChambeau taking it down the 9th to leave himself a wedge in while everyone else will be left to take the more conventional and lengthier route, a move that was shut down by the tour by bringing in an internal out of bounds ruling.
For now though we have DeChambeau and an approach that, in among all the other gym bunnies and supreme athletes on tour, is like nothing else.
In among all the big numbers surrounding big Bryson a good one is the number of eyeballs on his drive at the par-5 6th at Bay Hill on Saturday – 4.4m watched him tear the corner off the dogleg as everyone else had to settle on an altogether different line. In the heat of the moment he’s fun and, wherever you stand on the state of the game, you couldn’t really wish for better entertainment.
Away from the 370-yard drives and saluting yourself on tees one cool aspect about DeChambeau is his ability to play the game with the other skills that are needed. We know all about his chipping and putting and ability to muscle shots out of the rough but it was the other bits that caught playing partner Lee Westwood’s eye.
“What impressed me about Bryson was some of the iron shots he hit into the wind, the way he kept the ball down. He was hitting 6-iron off some tees where I was hitting a hybrid on the par 4s to get in the fairway and really knocking it down and holding it into a wind. That's an aspect of his game I don't think people appreciate.”
There were more nauseating nods to his sponsors post Bay Hill but that’s the just the way he is. He provides more than enough thrills and spills to allow him the odd loose one. We’ve all spent years crying out for more ‘characters’, something different away from the PGA Tour robot, and now we’ve got someone who does it all differently and we can’t help ourselves in picking holes in how he’s landing US Opens.
DeChambeau is only 27, in time he’ll likely win more people round, he’s probably turned a big chunk of those 4.4m viewers at Bay Hill.
This is how he celebrated that win.
“I hung out with quite a few of the folk in the locker room. I had a chocolate milk and I had some Arnold Palmer gummies. It was like iced tea and lemonade gummies. That was kind of funny, it was kind of a tribute to him. We had a little bit of champagne, as well, and popped a bottle. That was fun.
“Other than that, I went over to Amy's (Palmer’s daughter) house and I was over there with Sam (Palmer’s grandson). We were having a great time, just talking about Arnold Palmer and what he meant for the game and what he did for game. That was a moment that I'll never forget for the rest of my life, looking at all his memorabilia up on the wall.
“When I went back to my host family's house I played some pinball. And then 11 to 12 comes around and I'm just in bed getting ready to come up to The Players.”
What’s not to love?
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