The U.S. Open isn’t over, but Bryson DeChambeau has already won it

Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau prepares to launch his golf ball into the stands Saturday evening at the U.S. Open.

Getty Images

PINEHURST, N.C. — Admit it — Bryson DeChambeau has won you over. Whether it was the golf on YouTube, the 58 on LIV, the fist-pumping and hat-tipping and driver smashing and sign stealing. Remember that, at the Masters? It may have been that 72nd-hole birdie at Valhalla, or the moment you heard about his 3D-printed irons, or maybe it was when you watched him take selfies with USGA interns on Wednesday night, when he was one of the last players on the property.

Whatever it was, you’re in now, almost like you never left. It feels good, doesn’t it? 

Maybe you had bowed out when DeChambeau left for LIV Golf. Or when he led a costly lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Perhaps it was his moaning about equipment like no one else. Or maybe it was years ago, back when you were on Team Brooks Koepka, during their feuding days. Maybe you even chanted “Brooksy!” at a Tour event as Bryson walked by. (BK had his reasons.) That was then, this is now. Bryson has won you over. And on Sunday he’s going to win some more.

It doesn’t matter if DeChambeau takes his three-shot lead and eventually lifts the U.S. Open trophy Sunday, what matters is that he’s seized total control of this tournament. All of it. If he does win — his second U.S. Open, at a course wildly different than his first — it’s golf magic. If he loses, just watch. It’ll be a painful but endearing step in his path to becoming the greatest entertainer in the sport. 

Saturday was special. In part because his week has been a slow build, a really good round late Thursday night, then another one early Friday morning. On Saturday, he woke up as one of the favorites on the leaderboard, sure, but he wasn’t in the lead. Ahead of him was the svelte, young Swede who seems to do no wrong. There’s Rory McIlroy and his Sisyphean pursuit of that 5th career major. There was lovable Tony Finau. Who doesn’t love Tony? 

But just seconds after his first shot of the day, there was no doubt who was the fan favorite. The leading United States man at the United States Open. DeChambeau (and Ludvig Åberg, too) was showered in U-S-A, U-S-A chants walking off 1st tee. No one else received that. But it continued throughout the day. On the 14th tee, the 15th tee, the 18th tee. 

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau smiles to the camera after tossing his ball into the stands on the 18th hole. Darren Riehl

For all they gave him, he handed plenty back. He signed autographs while he played the 3rd hole. He egged them on after making birdie on the 8th. He clubbed-down from driver on 13 and then said aloud, “Don’t boo me, I’m sorry.” They laughed. The announcers laughed. You probably laughed, too. After tapping in for 67, he signed his ball, whistled to the grandstand and hoisted his Titleist into the crowd. Twenty minutes later, he was seated in a press conference, taking an emotional pause. Because it wasn’t always this way. 

“Just thinking back three years ago, the landscape was a lot different,” he said. “I tried to show everybody who I was. I didn’t do it the right way and could have done a lot of things better.”

Three years ago brings us back to the land before LIV. When DeChambeau went four events and two months without speaking to reporters. Why? He had had enough. It wasn’t necessarily harsh questions or criticisms from the press, but rather icky attention and volatile treatment from fans. DeChambeau was in the middle of that beefy boy feud with Koepka, which played out on social media but then continued as spectators chanted “Brooksy” or Koepka’s full name at DeChambeau during Tour events. It got under DeChambeau’s skin, even if he didn’t want to admit it. But at the 2021 Memorial tournament, DeChambeau had multiple fans removed from the grounds for shouting Koepka’s name in his presence. (Koepka did little to stop the nonsense.) It got so bad that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced any spectators who did so in the future would be ejected. Rory McIlroy (who, at four under, might be DeChambeau’s biggest threat Sunday) spoke openly about it back then: 

“I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late and it’s actually pretty sad to see because he, deep down, I think, is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be.”

But McIlroy also provided important context back then. That DeChambeau had brought a bit of the antagonism on himself. He adores being adored, with his golf at the center of your attention, but he occasionally lashed out.

“It’s not a regret. It’s a learning experience,” DeChambeau said Saturday night. He brought it up on his own. “I never regret anything in life. Do I not like what I did? Absolutely. But every moment that I live in this life, I’m always trying to learn from my mistakes. So could you have called it a mistake? Sure. You can call it a bunch of things. But for the most part, the most important piece of it all is that you’re growing and learning. You’re growing from those moments.”

It may seem like DeChambeau is offering his most reflective self now that his name is atop the leaderboard, but he’s been showing it all week long. His Tuesday press conference ended with this thought, “They say every five years somebody’s life changes and it couldn’t be more true,” DeChambeau said. “I’m a completely different person than I was back at Winged Foot.”

What that person looks like Sunday seems like it will feed off its surroundings. Fanhood, in a sport ravaged by loneliness, can become a triumph of something cyclical, in the way Kiawah Island rallied around Phil Mickelson, how Rory McIlroy fed off St. Andrews and how East Lake attached itself to Tiger Woods. DeChambeau is giving and we’re taking. We’re giving and he’s taking. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. 

Sean Zak Editor

Sean Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just published his first book, which follows his travels in Scotland during the most pivotal summer in the game’s history.

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