The John Deere Classic’s new reigning champion considers himself a scientist who wants to help you play better golf.
Bryson DeChambeau trailed leader Patrick Rodgers by three shots with five holes left in Sunday’s final round at TPC Deere Run, but rallied to bag a 33-pound trophy featuring a bronzed buck.
It was his first PGA Tour win. He is 23, and there will be more. But like Jordan Spieth and Payne Stewart, this will always be where he got No. 1.
Two years ago, DeChambeau joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore as the only players to win an NCAA individual men’s golf championship and a U.S. Amateur in the same year.
But until winning Sunday, DeChambeau had been better-known as a pro for all his irons being 37 1/2 inches long. That has caught him flack from golf commentators and spectators.
“There has been a lot of talk,” he said. “I had somebody say ‘Go back and get your old clubs’ or whatever. This week out here there was somebody that said that.
“Happens every week. I just throw it to the side and say ‘Don’t even worry about it. You’re going down the road you’ve chosen and you’re comfortable with it.’”
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DeChambeau has struggled through most of his first full season on the PGA Tour. He missed eight straight 36-hole cuts from mid-April through last month’s U.S. Open, and admits he doubted himself.
“I was going through a process of understanding what is the most efficient way to hit the golf ball, to putt, for me, based on how I feel and how uncomfortable I am as well.
“I knew I was comfortable hitting every kind of shot out here. It was just a matter of if I could hit it under the pressure. That’s all it was.”
He handled pressure with aplomb Sunday, making four birdie putts of 10 feet or longer on the back nine Sunday. His 14-footer on No. 18 turned out to be the difference-maker.
Over the last decade, the JDC’s winners have been name-players. Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Spieth, Brian Harman, Moore. There’s not a journeyman or flash-in-the-pan among them.
DeChambeau seems likely to join them as big-stage guys. He headed to a mighty big stage Sunday night. His victory here earned him the final spot in this week’s British Open field.
So what is this man’s goal in golf? Win multiple majors? Ascend to the top of the World Golf Rankings?
“I want to make (golf) easier for the amateurs,” DeChambeau said.
“I think there are some cool things that I do that can help amateurs out there. People may think my golf swing is really weird and funky, but I think it’s one of the most-consistent swings out here.
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“So that is one of my bigger goals, to hopefully help out the game itself and bring more people in through these new ways of playing.”
He was a physics major at SMU. His golf swing is based in science. He aligns his club with his arms into a straight line, and doesn’t turn his wrists during his swing. Your garden-variety club pro doesn’t teach that.
“I am an artist,” DeChambeau said last year. “I love creating things, and that’s ultimately why I’ve become so scientific.”
Johnson is no scientist, but does have 12 Tour wins. He made a good run at No. 13 Sunday.
He was 5-under through 13 holes of his Sunday round to get to 16-under overall and into a share of the lead. But he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 14, bogeyed 15, and parred the final three holes. His 4-under-67 helped him to a tie for fifth place, his best Tour finish this year.
“My goal was to birdie every hole today and give myself a chance on every hole,” Johnson said. “Early on, it looked like my game plan was being executed.”
Two years ago, Johnson tied for third here and channeled his disappointment into a British Open win eight days later. Could this year become a parallel?
“I hope so,” Johnson said. “I know my game is trending. I’ve been saying that for a while, but I know it’s trending. It’s just a matter of when, not if. If it’s next week, fantastic.
“But I’m going to keep plugging. I think the best is yet to come.”