SANDWICH, England — The Bryson DeChambeau experience has been far from boring this year. He has had quite the past few months.
From a spat with Brooks Koepka that will not die, to shooting a back-nine 44 at the U.S. Open after leading through 63 holes, to a caddie change and a missed cut as the defending champion at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, and then taking down Phil Mickelson with some high-altitude drives in an exhibition … well, if it’s not one thing, it is many.
And we’re supposed to figure out how he is going to fare this week at Royal St. George’s in The Open?
DeChambeau brings a lot of questions with him to southeast England in his first attempt at the game’s oldest tournament while playing as beefy Bryson.
Remember, it was less than two years ago that DeChambeau embarked on his fitness-training, weight-gaining, eat-what-you-want regime that saw him go from average size to the longest driver on the PGA Tour.
Before embarking on that program, DeChambeau missed the cut at The Open in 2019 played at Royal Portrush. Nobody thought much about it, although he was ranked sixth in the world at that time — same as now — and had already won five times on the PGA Tour; his total number of wins is now eight.
The result was his second missed cut in three Open appearances, and the only thing of note that has transpired for DeChambeau during those three starts is viral video of his meltdown on the range in 2018 at Carnoustie, where he went on to tie for 51st. DeChambeau also played links golf as an amateur in the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s.
Not sure if this came out last week but last night was first time I saw it.
L’Artiste battling the demons on the range in the middle of a major. Appears at one point he must have upended the studio in a fit of rage – paintbrushes scattered all over the range. Heavy stuff. pic.twitter.com/SOYP2wZh6X
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) July 27, 2018
The Open was not played last year because of COVID-19.
So, other than those three appearances, DeChambeau’s links experience is pretty light. He has, though, emerged as a top player, one to watch at every major championship, especially since his 6-shot victory in 2020 at the U.S. Open played at Winged Foot.
But there’s been more drama than triumph of late. It seems to have followed DeChambeau all the way to England, where he will employ a new caddie this week at Royal St. George’s.
That is certainly not ideal in any player-caddie relationship. It is especially so for DeChambeau, who requires a unique amount of attention. He has a myriad of gadgets to gauge all different aspects of his swing. He can be seen on practice ranges hitting golf balls in the dark.
After shooting a 73 at the U.S. Open, Bryson DeChambeau works on his swing in the dark.
Now, he arrives at Royal St. George’s, a golf course he has never seen and one fraught with nuance. It’s not an ideal combination for him.
Tim Tucker, DeChambeau’s now-former caddie, either quit or mutually agreed to break with Bryson on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It was unusual timing, both in the fact it was after the pro-am and before the first round. Plus, it was less than two weeks before a major championship.
DeChambeau has yet to address the matter. He did not speak to reporters after either of his rounds in Detroit, where he missed the 36-hole cut as defending champion.
At the U.S. Open, DeChambeau looked to be in good shape to defend his title at Torrey Pines, only to implode over the final nine holes.
Having played the first 10 holes in 2 under par to get to 5 under for the tournament, DeChambeau suddenly saw his strategy of bombing drives no longer work. He made bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes — no great shame, really — then fell apart with a double-bogey 7 at the par-5 13th.
He put it down to luck. Specifically, bad luck.
“OK, I mean, I slipped on 13,” he said. “Everybody was apparently slipping on 13, and I didn’t know that. I slipped two days in a row, then got in a bad lie, which you’re expecting, it’s the U.S. Open, but it’s a part of life. I could have hit it 5 more feet to the right across the cart path and gone for the green.
“So it’s just one of those things that a little bit of luck there. And then a streaker, that was fun.
— Sean Zak (@Sean_Zak) June 20, 2021
“Then just laid up into a bad lie in the right rough, had a bad line. And then, I just feel like my driver’s kind of a bit of luck. Sometimes I pull it, sometimes I push it and on 17 I pulled it into a bad lie or in the hazard and then hit a great wedge shot and it spun off the front edge into a really bad lie and just hit it off the hosel and went over the green. That’s what it is. It’s just things compounding on each other that you just can’t necessarily control fully. You hit a great shot, nothing happened for you. That’s luck.”
DeChambeau, 27, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, has largely been able to rationalize these missteps.
Whether it’s luck or bad play, he has also acknowledged that various parts of his game have left him at times, including his driving on the back nine at Torrey Pines. Other times, he failed to putt or chip well enough to take advantage of those prodigious drives.
And while the Koepka situation has lingered since the PGA Championship — site of a viral video of Koepka showing his disdain for DeChambeau during a taped interview that was not aired — DeChambeau has largely been able to shake off any issues, although there was that little thing at the Memorial when a few fans were booted for taunting him.
DeChambeau does not have a top-20 finish in any of the 2020 major championships, having slipped all the way to 26th over those closing holes at Torrey Pines. He was not a factor at the PGA Championship nor at the Masters.
The fact that it is surprising is an example of how far DeChambeau has progressed and how expectations have increased with his bulk.
Before the start of the Rocket Mortgage, DeChambeau discussed how his victory there a year earlier was confirmation that his plan was working.
“It was very important,” he said. “It was a milestone to show everybody that this is a different way that I can do it and still win, so I was pretty proud of that. Used it pretty well throughout the year. I won again — I won the U.S. Open, won Arnold Palmer and come close a few other times, but just again, not everything being on my A-game allowed me not to win [at Torrey Pines].
“It gave me the confidence to win the U.S. Open knowing that I can play a game that’s not normal or is a little unique and different. You look at the U.S. Open, it was a prime example. Everybody thought I was crazy by saying I’m just going to bomb and gouge it, but it worked out that week. Didn’t work out at Torrey, but that’s OK. Life goes on.”
Life has moved across the Atlantic this week to a form of golf that might be as quirky as Bryson.
Will he and Royal St. George’s get along?