Bryson DeChambeau almost flawless Friday, until the end of his lap
OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Over the past month, Bryson DeChambeau has let his clubs do the talking, and on Friday at the BMW Championship they’ve been pretty talkative.
Two eagles and eight birdies sent the masses to Caves Valley into a frenzy, and if it hadn’t been for a missed 6-footer at the last, DeChambeau would have signed for 59. The consolation, however, was not that great: a scorching under-60 and a place at the top of the standings during this second leg of the FedExCup qualifiers.
As for DeChambeau? He remained silent.
No, not completely. He spoke briefly to the PGA Tour broadcast and radio partners.
“A lot of putts were played, a lot of things went well,” DeChambeau told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands. “… Sticking to the process kept me hitting great shots when I knew I had a great chance to shoot 59.”
But that was about it. When the time came to face the assembled written press, DeChambeau, for the 10e competitive straight round, denied.
As DeChambeau lined him up from the Sky Sports tent to the practice green – with his manager, Brett Falkoff strapped to his left hip – he glanced at half a dozen scribes, gathered in a throw of stone, waiting to add some life to the story, stuff a 45-second TV hit never could.
It’s strange. For years, DeChambeau’s unique story has been shared for a long time in writing. We first heard about his singles when he was in college at SMU. We found out how he dipped his golf balls in Epsom salts to determine center of gravity as he won the US Amateur. He lit up the interview room at Masters 2016 while claiming amateur honors, and the same week he won hearts by expressing his gratitude to his father, Jon, then on dialysis and needing a kidney, was there to witness it.
“For him to be here for this moment, it’s special,” said DeChambeau, so eloquently, at the time. “And it’s choking me.”
Of course, that was all before DeChambeau gathered millions of social media followers and became a larger-than-life figure (literally) in sports. These days DeChambeau, as far as he’s focused on growing the game, doesn’t seem too interested in deep dives or wellness stories – unless it’s paid content or sponsored. (For example: DeChambeau spoke to the print media on Friday, but it was over the phone with Golf.com, for which DeChambeau is the site’s game editor.)
In fact, since going silent on the radio earlier this month in Memphis, DeChambeau has taken to social media to denigrate golf writers, saying they were looking to catch him and get out. his comments out of context.
BMW championship full field scores
In some ways, DeChambeau has some ground. Take this paragraph from Daily Memphian: “DeChambeau is a model. Indeed, he is the worst model, the one who likes to pretend to be smart. You know the guy, don’t you?
Pretty tough, no matter how one viewed DeChambeau’s controversial views on COVID-19 vaccination prior to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. But as far as the small group of national media types go, these accounts of the Memphis events offered little editorialization and quoted DeChambeau verbatim.
That the Twitter trolls pounced on the comments is nobody’s fault but DeChambeau’s. He can control what he says and what he does not say. Again, this quote from last summer is revealing: “I think we need to start protecting our players here from showing potential vulnerability and damaging someone’s image,” he said. he said after a reporter overheard DeChambeau berating a cameraman for filming him getting angered in the sand after a bad bunker shot at the fanless Rocket Mortgage Classic.
DeChambeau is smart enough to know that a journalist’s job – one that pays significantly less per year than what DeChambeau will collect this week – is not to be a player’s PR machine but rather to report back. and tell stories. The ironic part, too, is that DeChambeau’s story is arguably one of the most interesting in the game, with immense talent and a flair for the unorthodox.
Yes, DeChambeau spoke badly and acted unflatteringly, calling the driver of his equipment company at the Open to his feud with Brooks Koepka, but he’s also young – and human. Jon Rahm transformed from the talented player who was held back by his propensity for tantrums – and took criticism from reporters, some unfairly – into one of the best quotes on the Tour. DeChambeau can still be that guy.
Behind stubbornness and immaturity hides a player who wants to do well. He wants to change sports. He wants to inspire. (A quick story: after winning the US Amateur, DeChambeau knew he wasn’t going to play his final year at SMU, but out of respect for Golfweek magazine, which had documented his rise in the amateur ranks, he played the magazine’s fall event, the only tournament he would play this final season.)
Instead of shutting down the media, DeChambeau should open up and give himself opportunities for redemption, to show a little grace, and to receive it in return.
Slipped on like a softball, Friday was one of those occasions.
A month after the crowd heckled DeChambeau’s collapse at TPC Southwind, they were encouraging him to succeed. When he made an 11-foot hole for the Eagle at the fourth par 5 hole and started 5 under the five holes, they shouted. When he stuck an 8 iron out of the rough 3 feet at par-5 16e hole, they roared. And when he flipped a 6-foot corner at the closing hole to take a look at an elusive score of under 60, they went completely mad.
They even moaned with DeChambeau as his closing birdie try never broke towards the hole, missing a few inches on the high side.
“It seemed like everyone was shooting for him,” said Harris English, who played alongside DeChambeau this Sunday in Memphis and again Friday. “You’d hear the random negative comments, but it was nice to see a bunch of positive energy out there, and he obviously feeds on that.”
What did this do to DeChambeau? We never asked him.
His gaming competitors, however, were there to rave about the ultra-talented player.
“When he goes that straight,” said Jordan Spieth, “that must be what it was in the early 2000s, with Tiger hitting him the farthest and straightest.”
“He can bring [this course] on his knees, and he did it today, ”English added. “The way he puts on, I can see him come out the next couple of days and scare 59 again.”
Hopefully if he does, he will tell us – all of us – more about it.