Inside the beautiful mind of Bryson DeChambeau
You’d suspect that when Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau finally hangs up his Hogan cap he won’t be left wondering if he left anything out there.
For much of this week the 25-year-old didn’t have his A game with him. On Thursday he reflected after his opening 66:“I didn’t feel like I was hitting it my best, anywhere near my best.”
Another 66 on Friday and more problems: “I just didn’t have the right sensations and proprioception over shots. I just felt uncomfortable.”
Things went further south with a 68 on Saturday: “Man, I’m just not 100 per cent with my golf game right now.”
He then found his game at 7.15pm on the range on Saturday night and waltzed to a closing 64 and a seven-shot win over many of Europe’s best and half of the Ryder Cup team that left him with a 0-3 record in his debut in Paris.
Proprioception, by the way, is your awareness of the position and movement of your body.
DeChambeau might begin a lot of sentences in the Californian way with ‘man’ or ‘shoot’ but it then unravels into something that most golfers and golf fans get a bit freaked out by.
Bobby Jones, after watching Jack Nicklaus win the 1965 Masters by nine, said: “Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar.”
DeChambeau talks a game that most of us are not familiar with.
“It’s a lot of hard work with my caddie and just really grinding and trying to figure out how to take account of all the variables out there; whether it’s air pressure, firmness values, mile-per-hour on the speed, putts and ball speed, spin rates. We’re trying to figure out as much as possible so I can be as successful as possible and obviously it’s shown.
“Trying to shoot 25 under and missed it by one but I’m happy with the results for sure. I was trying to go as deep as possible.”
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 27, 2019
The win in Dubai was his fourth victory in his last nine starts, the rest are all top-20 finishes. Three years ago, when he played Dubai as an amateur, he was 530th in the world. Then he struggled on the greens, this year the proverbial Mad Scientist worked out, amongst other things, the key to the greens.
“The grain. I won’t go too deep into it but the grain is definitely a huge factor out here that we were able to take care of beautifully this week.”
Now he’s fifth in the world and quickly closing in on Justin Thomas and there aren’t even any major heroics to partly explain for the rapid rise – DeChambeau is yet to finish inside the top 10 in one, something as you might expect that he’s working on.
The single-length clubs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his idiosyncrasies; his work on the greens makes Marcelo Bielsa look unprepared, he practises like few others with his launch monitor, he walks quick but plays slow, he’ll analyse this, that and every other aspect of every round and he now works on his breathing.
“Breathing is a monster part of resting,” DeChambeau told USA Today. “Breathing in a way that will help get your brain into a parasympathetic state instead of a sympathetic state. It’s to make it easy on yourself to get to a more of a sleep state rather than a stress state.
“You can breathe in a stressful way. Or you can breathe in a relaxed state. Breathing in the proper state gets you into a state where you digest food better and calms your brainwaves down.”
One of my favourite DeChambeau facts is that he can sign his autograph backward with his left hand even though he’s right-handed.
Yet, while many of us are all clamouring for something, anything different from the weekly carousel of the same old, same old DeChambeau still gets a bit of a kicking from various quarters.
The handshake or supposed lack of one with the winner Richard McEvoy when he self-combusted at the European Open?
We spoke to McEvoy, who immediately came to his rescue on social media, recently and he said this of the incident: “He got a lot of stick for it but there was no need for it. At the end of the day he shook my hand and said congratulations. I didn’t actually take anything of it in as I was in my own zone having won my first event. Then I saw that he was getting a lot of stick, people thought he hadn’t even shaken my hand but it was just a camera angle.
“We chatted a lot on the Saturday and got on really well, just about how the tours worked and life in general. On Sunday there was a bit less chat but I liked him, he’s a very different individual but a really nice guy.”
What about the ‘DeChambeau Loses His Mind!’ screaming headlines at Carnoustie when he had a bit of a meltdown on the range?
He discussed this on the eve of the Ryder Cup: “You’ve got to understand that’s not anything out of the ordinary for me. People brought that up as a huge deal and a huge situation, but they just caught me at a vulnerable time and it was unfortunate.
“I do that all the time because I’m trying to figure things out and I’m trying to go through it and, yeah, I’m going to get frustrated and, yeah, there’s fire there, and that’s a good thing; I don’t ever want that to go away and that’s what makes me who I am. As I look back on that, that’s a moment that allowed me to be better for the future.”
Becoming ‘better for the future’ resulted in back-to-back wins in the FedEx Cup Playoffs just a month after Scotland.
Things stick and when you’re as quirky as DeChambeau and the total of your weekly ambitions can’t simply be summed up by something as glib and banal as ‘I just need to get the putter going’ then you’re going to be the focus of some negativity which is fuelled by part ignorance and part jealousy.
Each to their own and he might not be everyone’s cup of tea but huge credit where it’s due and we might, in amongst all the American superstars, be looking at the best of the bunch here which is quite something to even suggest given the lofty company of Messrs Spieth, Thomas et al. The swing might not be as easy on the eye of some of his peers but the sum of its parts is incredible and there’s plenty more to come.
In terms of development DeChambeau reckons he’s midway into his journey of learning and it will take another five years to get to 80-90 per cent.
As for the more immediate future two of the past three winners in Dubai – Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia – have gone on to win The Masters in the same year.
Which brought the shortest answer of the week…
“You never know. You never know.”