The whingeing, whining and gnashing of teeth over this US Open’s outcome promise to be more entertaining than the closing stages of its 120th edition. Bryson DeChambeau is a major winner. He holds as many US Open titles as Tom Watson and Gary Player, which is one more than Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo. The professor is not so nutty after all. He may, in fact, have changed the shape of golf inside four competitive rounds.
History will show that in a typically brutal US Open fourth round, DeChambeau lapped the field at Winged Foot. His 67 and six-under total ensured a half-dozen stroke victory over Matthew Wolff. The 27-year-old DeChambeau was the only player in the 61-man field to break par on day four.
DeChambeau is the third player, after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to win the US college individual title, US amateur and US Open. “It’s just an honour,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. It’s been a lot of hard work. To be in that company is special. I’ll for ever appreciate that.”
The backdrop, though, was one of horrendous sniping. DeChambeau has made no apologies for bulking up – with 20lb worth of muscle – thereby handing himself an ability to overpower courses. Traditionalists object to that, with the debate rather irrelevant until he made this breakthrough.
The Californian can now point towards results with a carefree shrug. He won in Detroit in July and finished fourth in the US PGA Championship, thereby improving drastically on a distinctly average major record even before Winged Foot glory. This isn’t the golf of James Braid or Harry Vardon; just as Leo Messi cannot be compared to Ferenc Puskas. In DeChambeau’s case, pounds of muscle have meant prizes. His nod towards tradition starts and ends with a flat cap akin to that donned by Ben Hogan.
DeChambeau probably talks too much on the course. He has done so in unprofessional terms towards rules officials and, in one particularly ignominious episode, a cameraman. His pace of play has previously and rightly been criticised as painfully slow. Yet here is a player, so left-field that every iron – named, not numbered – in his bag must be the same length, who breaks the mould. He has now successfully turned elite golf into a science.
It is for the authorities to debate whether technology needs to be hauled back, whereby someone in DeChambeau’s position cannot launch drives into different post codes. But for now golf has an individual whose pursuit of perfection is both engaging and valid. This should be embraced rather than sneered at. Even before he rolled in for a par at the 72nd hole plenty of media coverage had demonised him and, hilariously, implied only the best guys ever win major championships. Cloud-cuckoo-land stuff, in short.
During the most nerve-inducing round of his career, DeChambeau’s golf was exemplary. Power matched precision. He should be afforded high praise for that alone.
Wolff will inevitably have bundles of chances to emulate DeChambeau but for the 21-year-old, this proved a wounding day. He started the fourth round holding a two-shot lead. Playing his first eight holes in plus three afforded him problems, slightly offset by an eagle at the 9th. Yet his rival was three under after 11, with Wolff making bogey at the 10th and dropping a further shot at the 14th. Heading to the 15th tee, DeChambeau’s advantage was four.
It was soon six as Wolff capitulated further over the closing stretch. His dream of becoming the first player since 1913 to win the US Open as a debutant had been shattered. He signed for a fourth round of 75. Louis Oosthuizen claimed third at two over, one clear of Harris English.
That the US Open was due to revert to type was clear from early on. English lost a ball on the 1st. Rory McIlroy four-putted at the same hole, with his first whack from 85ft, his second from 63ft. The Northern Irishman posted a 75, with his six-over meaning a tie for eighth. “This is as proper as they come and look what’s happened,” said McIlroy when assessing DeChambeau. “He’s got full belief in what he’s doing and it’s pretty impressive.”
Patrick Reed, for so long a key part of this championship, closed with a 74 for a share of 13th at plus seven. Lee Westwood, who signed off with a 72, was among those to keep Reed company. Justin Thomas finished a shot better off after a run of 73, 76, 72 to follow up Thursday’s stunning 65.
“It’s an unbelievable golf course,” said Thomas. “It’s for sure my favourite US Open venue I’ve played. I’m pretty disappointed in how I finished the week. I hit it just terribly the second and third rounds. I hit it nice today. I played really, really good golf and hit a lot of good putts that just burned the edges. It’s fair. If you play well you can score and make birdies.”
DeChambeau embraced the challenge far better than anyone else. Applause will be slow in coming when it really shouldn’t be. “People think I’ve got all these crazy theories,” he said in June. “But when you really break it down to the root principles of what I’m trying to do, it’s a lot of common sense.” As he posed with the US Open trophy aloft, who were we to argue? The pioneer has his prize.