Winged Foot Golf Course was supposed to be the course that put the big hitters on an even playing field with everyone else. It was supposed to frustrate players and challenge them in ways they haven’t been challenged all year. And it did, for everyone except the game’s longest hitter and beefiest player.
Bryson DeChambeau was not the least bit concerned by the narrow fairways, lightning fast greens or the ankle-deep rough that shape Winged Foot into historically the toughest of all U.S. Opens. With his extra 40 pounds of muscle and mass, he tried to pound it into submission with his driver, even if his shots were buried in deep grass. That’s how he plays the game. And for skeptics who said that wouldn’t work in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, just look at that shiny silver trophy he kissed, and the record score he posted Sunday in his six-shot victory.
Pioneering A New Approach
This victory was as much about validating his out-of-the-box approach to those who say it can’t be sustained. “One hundred percent, no doubt,” DeChambeau said. “For me, it’s about the journey of can I execute every shot more repeatable than everybody else. I was able to do that this week. That’s why I won by six.”
DeChambeau rolled in a 7-foot par putt and thrust those powerful arms in the air when he capped off a 3-under 67 on a course that didn’t allow another round under par. Two shots behind Matthew Wolff at the start of a chilly September afternoon, he caught him in four holes, passed him in five and pulled away along the back nine. From the fairway. From the rough. It didn’t matter.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does,” Rory McIlroy said. “Look, he’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played.”
You can call DeChambeau whatever you want. You don’t have to like his approach, but he is changing the game, and that was never more evident than what he did this past weekend. It is also easy to forget, he is one of the best putters on tour. That has nothing to do with his size, but everything to do with his preparation. Any name you want to call Bryson from here on out is fine, he’ll laugh it off, because it must include U.S. Open champion. This was the first major win of Bryson’s young career.
Great Effort From Matthew Wolff
Matthew Wolff was his match play competitor on Sunday, entering the day with the lead, but finishing the day 6 strokes behind. He was trying to become the first player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to win the U.S. Open in his debut. He made a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 ninth to stay within one shot. That was his only hole under par. Wolff finished at even-par 280, a score that would have won four of the previous five U.S. Opens at Winged Foot. It didn’t stand a chance in this one against DeChambeau this week. It was a breathtaking performance, four rounds at par or better, the first player to manage that at Winged Foot.
The Journey To Get Here
His victory really began last October, when he closed out his 2019 season in Las Vegas and said with a mischievous grin, “I’m going to come back next year and look like a different person.” He added 40 pounds through intense workout and a diet of 6,000 calories a day. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf for three months, leading to the U.S. Open being postponed from June to September. That gave DeChambeau more time to execute his plan of swinging faster and harder, stretching the limits. He came back beefy and stunned everyone on tour with his distance. In the first 5 events back, he finished in the top 5 in each, winning one.
Breaking Records And Making History
In the six U.S. Opens now completed at Winged Foot, half were finished under par: DeChambeau, Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman (1984). In six U.S. Opens at Winged Foot among 894 competitors, DeChambeau is only the third to finish a tournament under par. His 6-under 274 was the lowest score, and no one saw it coming. Especially given how much he has struggled since his last win in early July.
With a three-shot lead, DeChambeau kept blasting away as if he were chasing, not leading, just like he said he would. He saved par from the left rough on the 14th and a perfect pitch from deep grass behind the green. He downed another protein shake while walking down the 15th on his way to a major title that affirms his position in the game as a pioneer.