Grading Bryson DeChambeau’s latest win, from gains to pains
The week began with a collective sigh of disappointment at a lack of star power showing up for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The week finished with a duel down the stretch between one of golf’s most fascinating big young bombers and the longest bomber in, like, PGA Tour history. The report card is in from Detroit! Here’s how things shook out:
Bryson’s statement: A+
Before Sunday, there was only one rebuttal to Bryson DeChambeau’s full-on takeover of the PGA Tour’s restart: But he hasn’t even won! This was a silly, leaky argument but it was at least factually accurate. Now? Bryson has a funky red-circled tee trophy (more on that later) to wave in the direction of the haters.
In all seriousness, DeChambeau’s win marks the culmination of a whole bunch of planning, strategizing, working hard and just consuming a godawful amount of protein. It was clear from his post-round remarks that he’s proud that the investment he has made is paying off. As he should be. After a particularly diligent set of thank yous to team and sponsors, here’s what DeChambeau said:
“This is a little emotional for me because I did do something a little different, I changed my body, changed my mindset in the game and I was able to accomplish a win while playing a completely different style of golf. And it’s pretty amazing to see that and I hope it’s an inspiration to a lot of people that if they set their mind to something, you can accomplish it.”
Insane gains: A+
The game has changed. At least, it feels that way. A few facts:
-Per Justin Ray, until this week, the longest average driving distance by a tournament winner was 341.5 by Tiger Woods at the 2005 Open. DeChambeau blew that number out of the water and finished at 350.6 yards.
-DeChambeau is 69-under since the Tour’s restart, 20 shots ahead of nearest competitor Viktor Hovland (-49).
-Per Lou Stagner, DeChambeau is 6.8% longer off the tee than he was in 2019 (and probably more than that once the data catches up). There’s effectively nobody else who has made a transformation of that magnitude and had this type of success (major equipment advances excluded).
-Beginning the week, DeChambeau was still at the edge of the first tier for futures odds for major championships. Now? He’s the favorite, or at least darn close, across all major sportsbooks for the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and this fall’s Masters.
Cameraman chats: C
They say that winning takes care of everything, and it pretty much does! Just think how much DeChambeau changed the narrative surrounding his week by Sunday evening, considering that the golf world was abuzz Sunday morning crying foul over a moment from DeChambeau’s third round. The moment in question involved a cameraman (who DeChambeau considered somewhat overzealous in his pursuit of a reaction shot) and, well, let’s hope we can chalk this one up to a learning moment.
Two evergreen lessons that are applicable here:
1. Never refer to your personal brand as “my brand”
2. In the eyes of golf fans, authenticity trumps nearly everything
DeChambeau did a good job of defusing the story post-round Sunday.
“I just felt like a minute long for videoing me was kind of a little weird, but we talked it out and it was all great and no issues, no issues whatsoever. So I appreciate what [the cameramen] do, I appreciate everybody that works hard out here to provide great entertainment.”
Mostly, though, he did a good job of winning, which — again — takes care of just about everything.
Webb Simpson’s run: A
Okay, it ain’t all fun and gainz on Tour these days (see what I did there?) because the game’s second-hottest player is quite the poker. Simpson threw down another top-10 finish — his seventh in his last nine starts — and jumps to No. 4 in the world. No. 4! He’s ahead of Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka and even Bryson DeChambeau. Good on ya, Webb.
Troy Merritt’s Sunday: D
You know that moment in a foursome where the longer hitter has the honors but is waiting for the fairway to clear, so he tells a shorter hitter in his group to go on ahead? Well, that exact moment happened to Troy Merritt on Sunday courtesy of DeChambeau. If it wasn’t rough enough that Merritt doubled No. 1 to effectively end his chances at a title, he had to suffer the short-hitter embarrassment at the hands of DeChambeau, who was waiting for the green to clear at the 399-yard par-4 13th.
Look, Merritt had a great week and is likely thrilled with a T8 showing. But it would be tough to feel good about your game playing alongside a winning DeChambeau effort.
Cam Champ’s comeback: A
It was just last week that Champ was laid up with a positive coronavirus test. Not good, right? Well, what a difference a week makes. After several subsequent negative tests it became clear that Champ likely did not have the virus and was immediately cleared to return to competition. On Sunday, he played his final six holes in 5-under par to post a T12 finish. That’s quite the turnaround.
Interactive trophies: B+
I mean look, this one’s just fun. Two weeks ago we were putting our second consecutive plaid jacket on the winner, so a strange circle-tee trophy makes for a fantastic photo prop. DeChambeau’s giddiness really popped off the screen in this shoot.
Matthew Wolff’s Sunday start: D
It’s not good to take a three-shot lead into the final round of a PGA Tour event and suddenly find yourself trailing by three after just your sixth hole. But that’s exactly what happened to Matthew Wolff, who played his first six holes in two over while DeChambeau made four birdies in his first seven holes from the group ahead. That’s a mega-swing. Wolff made five bogeys in the first 10 holes of his final round, which makes it damn hard to hold a lead.
Matthew Wolff’s Sunday finish: A-
Still, it wasn’t all bad for Wolff on Sunday. He clearly wasn’t as sharp as he’d been, but when the back nine hit he started walloping drives, making birdies and playing with the sort of reckless abandon that had gotten him to the top of the leaderboard in the first place. We’ll be seeing plenty more of the Wolff man, especially on courses where his driver can roam free like this one.
This photo’s one-year-anniversary: A+
Remember this picture?
If you’ll recall, TV cameras caught DeChambeau off-guard at the conclusion of last year’s 3M Open, suddenly realizing that his hopes of winning had been dashed by a Matthew Wolff 72nd-hole eagle. It was a look into the soul of a man whose plans had gone awry — and this is a man who likes it much better when things follow the plan.
What a difference a year makes, eh? This time DeChambeau stood in the clubhouse as Wolff once again tried to chase him down — but this time he’d built an insurmountable lead. A lot changed from July 8, 2019 to July 6, 2020. Just not the two names at the top of the scoreboard. This time, though, it’s DeChambeau’s name that comes first.