Bryson DeChambeau’s PGA heartbreak ended with ‘shocking’ twist

bryson dechambeau tips cap in navy hat at the PGA Championship.

A vintage Bryson DeChambeau performance left us without a victory, but something else instead.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bryson DeChambeau was sure it wasn’t falling.

The birdie putt on the 18th green at Valhalla Golf Club was only eight feet, but they were the longest eight feet of DeChambeau’s recent professional life. A make and DeChambeau had pushed himself to 20 under for the PGA Championship, level with leader Xander Schauffele, setting the stage for a must-birdie finisher for Schauffele to avoid a playoff with a former Tour foe with cartoonish power and a showman’s swagger. A miss and DeChambeau’s Sunday was all but over, shrinking from the spotlight to allow Schauffele to coast into a closing par and his first major championship.

DeChambeau and caddie Greg Bodine had circled the putt for a long time, settling on a read after a brief discussion. A few seconds after they’d committed to a line, though, DeChambeau thought he’d mishit it.

“I thought I left it short again, like a — like a you-know-what,” he said. “Like an idiot.”

But Sundays at majors can play tricks on you. Just when you think you know exactly what your ball is going to do, it surprises you. And as DeChambeau’s orb slowed its rotation toward the face of the cup, it did something bizarre.

DeChambeau reached his arms back as the ball slowed, winding up as if to brace himself for the miss. And then, just when it seemed like the ball was going to run out of steam, it found an extra rotation and dropped.

The crowd erupted. DeChambeau thrust his arms out into the air at an oblong angle, holding a celebration seeming fueled by the crowd’s roar. Bodine beamed. The tournament was saved. DeChambeau — and his caddie — were stunned.

“The read was a cup — no, four inches outside left,” Bodine said later. “I thought it might be a half-rotation short, but it wasn’t. It was a perfect putt. Perfect.”

The sun would shine on DeChambeau’s PGA hopes for only 28 minutes. Schauffele strode confidently down the 18th shortly after DeChambeau’s round ended, navigated a tricky bunker approach and an even trickier up-and-down, then side-doored a birdie putt for a tournament-clinching victory. He was a major champion, and DeChambeau, watching on the big board next to the driving range where he’d been bombing stay-warm drivers, was a major loser.

“God damnit,” he whispered as Schauffele’s putt fell in.

The party ended quickly for DeChambeau, who charged up the hill even before Schauffele’s putt had been retrieved from the hole. DeChambeau shared a quick hug with Schauffele, then bolted through the scoring area and straight into a press conference, where the disappointment was palpable from his stature alone.

“On my side of the coin, disappointing, but, whatever,” he said, crestfallen. “Didn’t strike it my best all week. Felt like I had my ‘B’ game pretty much.”

But as the shock of the loss wore off, DeChambeau’s demeanor changed. He’d just fired a bogey-free, seven-under 64 on a Sunday at a major, chasing down a leader who’d hardly blinked since the second the gun went off Thursday, and he’d come up only one shot short … with his B-game.

Oh, and he’d done that while establishing himself as one of the tournament’s most seriously beloved players. That’s not hyperbole. The 50,000 mostly Kentuckians at Valhalla seemed to be willing a DeChambeau victory from the moment he stepped to the first tee on Sunday, screaming his name at every monster drive and overly dramatic follow-through. And, in something of a career first, DeChambeau seemed to have a full grasp of how to manage the power of their collective attention, sharing smiles and souvenirs and genuine human interactions in a way that only stirred them up further.

These were not victories in the literal sense, and the fans would do nothing to fill the void left by the absence of an actual victory at the PGA, but for a golfer who has found himself on the wrong side of public sentiment more than once, the support was a sign of growth.

“When the moment comes, knowing what to do, what to say, how to act is really important,” DeChambeau said. “When I was younger, I didn’t understand what it was. Now I’m doing it a lot more for the fans and for the people around and trying to be a bit of an entertainer that plays good golf every once in a while.”

bryson dechambeau pumps fist on 18th green at pga championship
Bryson DeChambeau has 1 thing the rest of the PGA Championship doesn’t
By: James Colgan

DeChambeau’s emergence as an entertainer in the last five or so years is well documented. He is the golfer who moonlights as a YouTuber, who competes in long-drive competitions, who revels in esoteric (and perhaps loosely understood) physics theorems, who burns through fad diets like they’re range balls. But in some ways those things detract from the thing that actually makes Bryson DeChambeau interesting: his golf. And why is Bryson DeChambeau’s golf interesting? Because it’s not an act. He doesn’t know any better than we do how it’s going to look, and he doesn’t know any better than we do how he’s going to respond to the pressure of a massive moment.

Entertainers make their bread on intention. Knowing, as DeChambeau said, when to fist-pump and when to wave, how to be interesting and endearing. But golfers aren’t afforded the same freedom. Some days you’re the entertainer; other days, you’re the entertained.

“I shocked myself a couple times, yeah,” DeChambeau said Sunday. “I don’t feel like I missed one big-moment putt out there. There were obviously a couple misses, but every time I needed to get up-and-down I got up-and-down, and every time I needed to make a 6-7-footer I did. So definitely surprised myself, impressed myself and I know I can do it again, it’s just going to take some time.”

DeChambeau left the podium at the PGA Championship before Schauffele had even seen the Wanamaker, but before DeChambeau could slip away into the parking lot, a group of a dozen or so fans had hung around for him in the grandstand behind the 10th tee box hoping for a few final autographs.

He was eager to disappear, to melt into a long night of what could’ve been. But not yet. It was time to deliver one final surprise.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at

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