Bryson DeChambeau eliminates the guesswork. This was his U.S. Open to win


PINEHURST, N.C. — The hardest shot in golf stood between Bryson DeChambeau and his second major championship.

The ball was perched on Pinehurst’s pillowy sand. It was 55 yards out — the distance pro golfers almost universally disdain — after advancing his approach shot from behind a tree root. The hole location was tucked just six paces off the green’s back-right edge, bordering another bunker. The groans that ensued after Rory McIlroy missed his par putt at the last hole still hung in the air around the 18th grandstand.

DeChambeau set up to his ball with a 55-degree wedge. Make bogey and move into a playoff. Get up and down and walk away as a two-time U.S. Open champion.

With 100 chances, DeChambeau said he would have gotten up and down from that spot four or maybe five times. But his caddie, Greg Bodine, assured him: “You’ve got this shot,” he said to DeChambeau before he descended into the bunker. “I’ve seen way harder shots pulled off from you.” And with one swing on Sunday, DeChambeau embraced Bodine’s words and executed the improbable.

“That bunker shot was the shot of my life,” DeChambeau said.

The ball skipped along the putting surface, taking several hops before rolling end over end to 3 feet, 11 inches. Was there even a question of what would happen next? DeChambeau drained the putt.

Call him golf’s mad scientist, a PGA Tour star who defected to LIV Golf, a content creator with a generation of youngsters following his every move on YouTube and TikTok. Whatever Bryson DeChambeau is or once was, the moment that came next allowed him to simply be.

DeChambeau launched both arms into the air, ripped off his Crushers GC cap, and turned to the congregation of photographers lining the left side of the 18th green. He stared into the TV cameras, pointing to the pin he wore on his hat to honor an idol, the late Payne Stewart who won here 25 years ago.

He screamed, emptying his lungs until his face turned red. This was his moment.


DeChambeau started Sunday on the driving range like usual: launching balls into the stratosphere with his team of confidantes nearby.

Behind him were three backpacks overflowing with curious props like measuring sticks and levels. An iPhone captured video of his golf swing for real-time 3D-motion feedback powered by an artificial intelligence app, Sportsbox AI, which DeChambeau started using last week. His swing coach, Dana Dalquist, lingered. Bodine wiped the clubs clean as DeChambeau worked his way through the bag.

Then something puzzling happened. Sixteen minutes before DeChambeau teed off at the U.S. Open with a three-shot lead, he unscrewed his driver head and swapped it with a new one. The face of DeChambeau’s special Krank driver — an equipment brand used by long-drive competitors — had flattened. The numbers on his Foresight launch monitor indicated the issue, and his wayward ball flight further proved it. A protractor-like tool that DeChambeau lined up with the curved clubhead face gave the final verdict. DeChambeau didn’t necessarily foresee putting a new head in play for the final round of the U.S. Open he had only hit six times, but he was prepared for the possibility.

DeChambeau’s goal in this game is to predict. He is on a perpetual mission to eliminate the variables, no matter the scale of their effects. And most recently, DeChambeau has been on a quest to take the guesswork out of golf.

DeChambeau floats his golf balls in Epsom salt to determine the low point of their weight, so that he can optimize rolling his putts end over end. He put a set of 3D-printed irons into play starting at the Masters that mimic the design of his driver and minimize the effects of off-center strikes. He uses Sportsbox AI to detect unwanted motions in his golf swing, documenting hundreds of data points for future analysis. When DeChambeau practices he doesn’t hit balls to find an ambiguous “feel.” He utilizes AI motion capture to detect if he’s making movements that will produce the shot he wants to see. If he’s hitting those checkpoints, he’s satisfied. DeChambeau doesn’t want an opinion on what he can do to improve his game and win more golf tournaments. He follows a formula. He’s after the truth.

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Augusta National doesn’t allow players to use slope-measuring devices. Dalquist said there is currently a conversation among DeChambeau’s team about building a 25-foot-long slope in his backyard to simulate putting at the Masters.

“It’s not just like it’s a science project, but we can’t make stuff up and hope,” Dalquist said. “He knows B.S. when he hears it.”

Much has been made of DeChambeau’s reliance on facts and science since he came out on tour with single-length irons — which he still plays. To some, DeChambeau’s whole schtick is a mad dash for some sort of edge in a game that should be kept simple. But to DeChambeau, it’s the only way that makes sense.

On Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2, though, it was never possible for DeChambeau to control every variable. He knew that, and the acceptance of such an idea is exactly what helped him execute rounds of 67, 69, and 67 to take a three-shot lead heading into the U.S. Open’s final round on Father’s Day.


Bryson DeChambeau had to play his second shot on No. 18 from a terrible lie, angle and position. (Alex Slitz / Getty Images)

DeChambeau, who won his first U.S. Open by overpowering Winged Foot with a bomb-and-gauge technique, plotted his way around the Donald Ross design in the North Carolina sandhills, taking conservative lines off the tee. Although he led the field in driving distance, his new head led him to some less-than-ideal situations in Pinehurst’s native areas. He only hit five fairways on Sunday, the fewest in a final round since Angel Cabrera in 2007, per The Athletic contributor Justin Ray. But aside from needing to chip out of the wire grass on No. 12, DeChambeau escaped by muscling his ball into favorable locations around the greens and leaning on his short game and his flat stick to scrape away pars.

Unforeseen predicaments define the test of this golf course, and on the 18th hole, DeChambeau faced perhaps the most extreme example of that, when yet another wayward drive found itself in jail. DeChambeau’s ball almost hit a group of tournament volunteers before it came to rest near a tree root, with branches limiting the length of his backswing. He wondered whether he’d hurt himself attempting to hit the shot, and he tried to seek relief from a temporary immovable obstruction nearby. No luck.

To win the championship and avoid entering a playoff with McIlroy, DeChambeau had to lean on something that can’t be quantified. Something that will never be distilled down to a science.

DeChambeau grew up throwing balls into impossible lies, training himself to harness his creativity and use a golf club to escape from anywhere.

“I go back to being a kid,” DeChambeau said.


Four years ago DeChambeau won his first major during a global pandemic, surrounded by a golf course devoid of fans or atmosphere. On Sunday? He sprinted off the 18th green with the U.S. Open trophy in hand, determined to give every fan in proximity a chance to touch the distinguished metal.

He hopped from interview to interview as the sun set on the championship, hugging and kissing his new piece of hardware, celebrating with a crew of friends and family who surprised him on Sunday evening. He took selfies and tried to throw his ball into the towering U.S. Open grandstands. His mother sat at home in California watching it all unfold — she skipped Winged Foot when her son hoisted the trophy. She wasn’t going to mess with fate. He dedicated the win on Father’s Day to his late father, Jon.

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Most champions are quick to go somewhere private, to celebrate the achievement with those closest to them. Two and a half hours after winning the U.S. Open, DeChambeau was signing autographs for seemingly every kid who remained on the property.

DeChambeau hasn’t always been easy to support but the people of Pinehurst were behind him, the same way they had started to at Augusta and were at Valhalla. He’s had moments — several of them — where the golf community has largely been averse to his antics. DeChambeau credits the arc in his public perception with a close-knit inner circle and an ability to use outlets to express to the world what he says is his true character.

“I’ve realized there’s a lot more to life than golf,” DeChambeau said. “I’m not perfect. I’m human. Everyone’s human. Certainly, those low moments have helped establish a new mind frame of who I am, what’s expected, what I can do, and what I want to do in my life.”

(Top photo: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)





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