Bryson DeChambeau recently told GQ he hopes to live to age “130 or 140,” so he should contend in major championships for the next 50 years, conservatively speaking. As Bryson would be the first to tell you, 72 and 4 months is the new 37, six months and three and a half days, though of course the math changes a bit if you live in the Southern Hemisphere and are a Pisces.
Golf is more interesting with DeChambeau in it, though some of his fellow players might disagree. Majors are more interesting with DeChambeau in contention, though we have very little evidence of that. Bryson, the muscled-up monster who has been the talk of golf, has never really contended in a major.
After two rounds of Man vs. Muni at TPC Harding Park, DeChambeau is two-under par, close enough to the leaders to believe he can win. He has not played his best golf. In the first round, his driver head broke away from the shaft; in the second, his driver rebelled against its player. Getting to two-under at the halfway point will not fuel the hype train, but it is progress for DeChambeau.
“I think I’m doing a much better job of controlling my emotions and keeping my head high,” he said afterward. “I just gotta hit more fairways.”
Any dissection of DeChambeau’s game must examine what he is and what he is not. He is, indeed, breathtakingly long, with a sudden-action swing that feels violent. When he hits it straight, as he has most of the summer, and putts well, as he has often, he can be the best player in the world.
He is not the best player in the world, at least not yet. There are three basic reasons he has never really contended in majors.
One is his touch from 100 yards and in. He is average at best; he punched a ball out of the dirt Friday that went way past the pin and off the green, though he did save par. His power advantage goes down on a course that neutralizes his length with thick rough and tight fairways — like Harding Park, and like most major venues. Bomb and gouge might win the Rocket Mortgage Classic, but winning this weekend will require a lot more creativity and better feel.
Another reason is his head. This summer, DeChambeau has missed the cut at the Memorial after stubbornly staying aggressive and arguing with a rules official on his way to a quintuple-bogey; argued that he deserved a free drop because of ants; and, in one of those silly moments that was quickly forgotten, hit a way-too-hard punch recovery shot into the water at that Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday.
This brings us to the third reason: He is not yet 27. There are so many great young players in the sport now that we forget how young they really are, and how hard it is to win majors when you are young. But DeChambeau is young. He has time to refine his physical skills and improve his course management.
Friday brought some good signs. He did not complain about his difficult lies, saying instead, “They’re just lies. I hit it in the rough. That’s what you should expect when you hit it in the rough.” He admitted: “I do have some speed and some power, but out here, from these lies, sometimes you can’t control it.” He even pointed out: “I had a really good break on 13.” This was the attitude Sergio Garcia could have used at 26.
It is easy to watch DeChambeau hit 360-yard drives and think he is breaking the sport. But winning takes a lot more than that. Every player who had a dominant run in majors – from Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to Nick Faldo and Nick Price and all the way to Brooks Koepka – did it with a well-rounded game, exceptional poise, and outstanding course management. DeChambeau isn’t there yet.
There is no way to know if he’ll get there. But it will be a fun ride if he does. DeChambeau often sounds like he has the answers to questions nobody would ever ask – Friday, he said he was “a little inconsistent in my spin axis for a draw,” and you could almost hear Koepka rolling his eyes. But DeChambeau is easier to stomach if you consider these his answers, not everybody’s. Single-length irons, the stiff but effective swing, the 5-degree-loft driver, the strange putting stance … variety is 67.789 percent of the spice of life, is what I always say.
“At the end of the day,” DeChambeau said, “it’s just golf.” That, too.